Carnegiea gigantea

Widely distributed in Arizona below 3500′ – its range is limited by the frost sensitivity of the seedlings. Seedlings start under the canopy of a nurse plant, like a Palo Verde. In its natural habitat it can take 75-100 years to start growing an arm. The skin (epidermis) is pleated to allow for expansion as the Saguaro quickly takes up water after a rain.

Saguaros are a keystone species, providing food and habitat for insects, bats and birds. They have been a source of food and water for humans for thousands of years. The Saguaro blossom is the Arizona state flower.

Flowers: J F M A M J J A S O N D
Status: Native
Origin: Sonoran Desert uplands to 3500′
Family: Cactaceae
Size: 25′ – 50′ tall
Sun: Full sun (except for seedlings)
Watering: No watering once established. Irrigated Saguaro become huge and can lead to stem failure or toppling.
Growth Rate: Slow
Soil: Well drained. Saguaro develop an expansive superficial root system.
Temperature: Tolerant to 28 F
Disease and Pests: Bacterial ooze, treat by excavating infected area and applying a 10% bleach solution mixed with water (not alcohol).
Uses: Food and shelter for wildlife. Nectar source for the Mexican Long-tongued and Lesser Long-nosed bat, White Winged Dove and other insects. Hawks and doves construct nests in the arms and Gila woodpeckers and Gilded flickers drill holes into the cactus to make nests.
Notes: Consider the location carefully in the landscape; the Saguaro can easily grow so large that it becomes out of proportion to the space, or even endanger nearby structures. State law restricts movement or sale of indigenous specimens.

Saguaro arms always grow upward, although frost damage can cause the arm to droop downward. In general, flowers form on the growing tip, although in recent years they have been observed growing lower down the arm. When pollinated, fruits will form in July that contain up to 2000 seeds, although only 1 in 40 million seeds will result in a mature cactus.

Gila woodpeckers and Gilded flickers peck holes in the Saguaro to produce nesting sites, but the cactus quickly produces a thick woody material to heal the wound.

Native Americans, particularly the Tohono O’odham people, used the seeds to make flour, the fruit to make jelly and wine and the ribs in construction of housing and fences.


Smart Plant Tags

Imagine a world where every garden, school yard, and public space becomes an immersive and educational experience.

A place where nature and knowledge intertwine to create stunning interpretive trails.

With a simple scan using your smartphone, you’ll unlock a whole new level of information and convenience.