Saguaro Cactus

The saguaro cactus (pronounced suh-wah-roh) is found only in the Sonoran Desert areas of southern Arizona, northern Mexico, and a small area of southeast California.

Saguaros grow very slowly as a single stem for perhaps 75 years before developing arms. Plants with five arms may be 200 years old. The flowers of the saguaro bloom at night from April to June and close by noon the next day, never to open again. Saguaro flowers can only be fertilized by cross-pollination so there must be a creature to carry pollen from one plant to another. Because of the night-blooming, bats drink the nectar and transfer pollen from plant to plant. A successfully pollinated flower will produce a green, oval-shaped fruit with bright red pulp. Many desert creatures eat the fruit and aid the saguaro in spreading its seeds. Only a small percentage of the seeds will ever germinate, but that’s alright because each flower produces as many as 4000 seeds.

Not only does the saguaro have a symbiotic relationship with the bats who consume its nectar and the many creatures who consume its fruit, but it also provides shelter for many desert animals. Saguaros become apartment houses for birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles, as well as a whole entourage of insects.

The saguaro cactus is remarkably well-designed for life in a dry climate. The outside of the plant has pleats like an accordion. The pleats allow expansion for storing large quantities of water when the rains come. As with other cacti, the saguaro has needles rather than leaves to reduce the loss of moisture by transpiration.

The design of the saguaro cactus allows it to live in the harsh conditions of the desert while providing food and shelter for various desert creatures. This is another indication of a Master Designer.
© Roland Earnst

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