By Kristy McCaffrey
The mighty saguaro cactus is a native of the Sonoran Desert, located in southern Arizona and California as well as much of Mexico.
Covered with protective spines, saguaro bloom with white flowers in the spring and produce red fruit in the summer. Both hydration and temperature affect the growth of a saguaro, and water is obtained and stored in the trunk predominantly during the summer monsoon season. Saguaro can grow to be over 60 feet tall and can weigh, when fully hydrated, between 3200 to 4800 pounds. They have a shallow root system, with only one deep root (the tap root) that goes down about 2 feet.
The Tohono O’odham—Native Americans located in the Sonoran region and previously known as the Papago—have long used the saguaro for food and shelter. “Saguaro boots,” holes bored out by birds to use as nests, can be retrieved from fallen saguaro and used to hold water, a type of ancient canteen. Harming or moving a saguaro is illegal in the state of Arizona, unless a special permit is obtained. One exception: if a private home sits on less than 10 acres and a cactus falls during a storm (which has happened to us), then the homeowner is permitted to remove the remains.
Saguaros have a long life span, some living well over 200 years.
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