Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saguaro Cacti and a Travel Day - Wed., Mar. 5

In an attempt to beat rush hour traffic in Scottsdale/Phoenix area, we left Lake Pleasant Regional Park at 6:30 a.m. It wasn't early enough!

As soon as we turned off I-17 to head east on I-101 toward Scottsdale, the traffic came to a halt. For the next 1-1/2 hours we had stop-and-go traffic until we passed Scottsdale, then the freeway opened up again. The rest of our drive to Deming, NM was uneventful.

At a rest area, we found lots of information on saguaro cacti. To us, cacti are fascinating. We grew up with pine, oak and maple trees in the Pacific Northwest, so cacti are like an alien species.

Pleasant Harbor RV Park
Pleasant Harbor RV Park
Here is information on saguaros from Rest Area signs written by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. (The photos are mine.):

Saguaros - Icons of the Sonoran Desert

Saguaros are the most north-reaching and cold tolerant of all columnar cacti. A symbol of the Sonoran desert, they define the role and variety of wildlife that inhabit it. They can obtain heights of 50 feet or more, and will live in excess of 200 years. Each of the four North American deserts is found in Arizona; however, saguaros exist only in the Sonoran desert.


The plant itself serves as a hotel of sorts for a variety of wildlife. It provides shelter for flickers and Gila woodpeckers that excavate nest cavities in its trunk and arms. These shelters are used for only a season or two by their makers. Abandoned holes are utilized for years thereafter for nesting and shelter by a variety of other birds, such as American kestrels and screech owls.

Bird-nesting materials are often seen draped between saguaro arms. These types of nests are typically occupied by larger raptors, such as great horned owls and red-tailed and Harris hawks. Even in death, the saguaro does not lose its importance for wildlife. The decaying plant is inhabited by a myriad of beetles and fly larvae that tunnel through its rotting flesh. Even the dried husk of the saguaro provides shelter for shrews, snakes and lizards that find protection from the elements and food beneath the dead plant.


  • Saguaros can store enough water during a normal moisture year to last for up to 10 years of drought. One of its survival strategies is its extensive, shallow root system that exploits any available, brief surface moisture. The trunk also has a thick, waxy surface that prevents water from escaping.
  • The plant's green color is due to chlorophyll, a substance the plant uses to convert sunlight to food. Like all cacti, the saguaro conducts the transpiration phase of photosynthesis at night to reduce water loss.
  • To prevent water loss from bird nest cavities, the saguaro forms a scab around the exposed inner tissue. The tough, protective tissue that lines these holes lasts for years after the plant dies, and is known as a "saguaro boot" because of its shoe-like shape.
  • The saguaro blossom is Arizona's official state flower. It blooms in May and early June, with each flower opening in the evening and remaining open for about 24hours.
  • Saguaro fruit, which mature in late June and early July, are food for a variety of desert inhabitants, including long-nose bats, white-wing doves, ants, javelina and man.
Bob and I just love being in the Sonoran desert to hike and marvel at these huge cacti. Now we know more about how special they really are.

Pipeline Canyon Trail - Lake Pleasant
Regional Park
Pipeline Canyon Trail - Lake Pleasant
Regional Park
Travel Bug out.


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