Thursday, November 26, 2015

11/26 Saguaro Cactus in Usery Mountain Regional Park

One of the defining plants in the Sonoran Desert is the Saguaro cactus.  (These are the big guys holding their arms in the air.)  The thing that makes the Sonoran Desert unique is that they not only get some winter rainfall, but they also get rainfall in the summer.  Actually, they are a fairly wet desert, getting up to 16" of rain a year, which enables them to produce a bounty of plants and food for animals and humans.  Native Americans lived very comfortably in this desert because of the abundant food and animals.  Check here for more information:

Saguaro cactus are impressive because of their size and their long life--they can get to be as tall as 40-45' and live up to 200 years.  They grow very slowly and may take as long as 10 years to get to be 2" tall.  They do not produce their first flowers or grow "arms" until they are almost 100 years old, so they are a valued natural resource.  Native American's harvested their sweet fruit and made syrup out of them and ground the seeds into a paste.  Bats also eat the fruit and various birds use holes in the cactus to raise their young.  More info is here:  

What I love is the varying shapes of these cactus.  Here are some photos I took today just in a small loop of the campground. This first one was one of the tallest.

Here is a cluster near my campsite.

This one isn't very tall, but it has a bunch of little arms.

This one looks dignified to me.

The one in the front has at least two holes for birds' nests. The one in the back has a drooping top for some reason.

This small one is about 6' tall so it is about 70 years old. Wow!

This one has one big arm on an arm and a lot of little arms starting to grow.

This one is about 12' tall and has its first arm growing, so it is probably 100 years old. 

This one has several sagging arms.  Not sure what causes that. 

This huge saguaro has a lot of very long arms and more arms growing on those arms.  Impressive and amazing that the base can hold up that huge structure.

Another amazingly large example.  There is one big cactus in the front and two others that are smaller behind it.

This one has arms on only one side, but seems to be sprouting arms on the other side.  Wonder if the arms on the one side fell off or were damaged in some way?

Just could not stop taking photos!

This one wins the prize for looking the weirdest.  Wonder what it would tell us about its history if it could talk?

This one has a constriction near the top.

However, if you look closer, you can see that there is a bird's home at that point.  Must have caused some damage to the growth.

And this is what is left when a saguaro dies.  Its inner skeleton can remain for decades and maybe longer. The Native Americans used these ribs for a lot of tools and to build their homes.

I guess I could have taken another few dozen photographs of saguaro, but this is enough to get a idea of their variety.  Hope you enjoyed.  It was a good way to enjoy my Thanksgiving! 

Tomorrow, after I get my haircut, I will try to take some photos of the other plants and cactus in the park.

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