The pure white waxy blossom of the saguaro cactus is the official state flower of Arizona. The flower was designated in 1931. The saguaro (Cereus giganteus) is the largest cactus in the United States. The cactus is indigenous to the Sonoran Desert that extends from Arizona through California into Baja California and Baja California Sur in Mexico. The giant saguaro cactus grows to a height of between 40 and 50 feet and lives for between 150 and 200 years. They are slow growing plants that can take up to 75 years to develop a shoot. They propagate over a long period and are therefore candidates for the endangered list
Characteristics of the Saguaro Cactus Flower
The creamy white flowers of the Saguaro cactus are about three inches wide with yellow centers. The flower blooms between May and June and develops as a cluster at the tip of the cactus branch. They open during cooler nights and close in the midday when the temperature is at its peak to prevent transpiration and withering. The Saguaro flowers are sweetly scented and attract flies and bees during the blooming season. By July, the flowers turn into red-fleshed fruits that feed migrating birds from Mexico. The bloom season is short-lived and it is therefore rare to see the saguaro cactus flowers.
The plant begins developing in the shade of a small tree or a shrub that provides shelter from the scorching desert sun. They grow very slowly at a rate of about an inch annually. By the time they are 75 years, they have grown to become the giants of the desert. Mature saguaros grow to a height of about 50 feet and live for nearly 200 years. Older plants develop arms on the sides that grow outwards and upwards creating the familiar cacti shape associated with deserts.
Interesting Facts About The Saguaro Cactus
- The fruit of the saguaro cactus are edible; they can be consumed raw or turned into pastries and jam
- Doves and bats are the primary pollinators of the saguaro flowers because they consume the indigestible seeds of the plant.
- A single saguaro fruit can hold as much as four thousand seeds
- When the cactus plant is cultivated under proper care with enough water and sunlight, it can grow at a rate of about 8 inches a year.
- The Pima and Papago Indians have for long harvested the fruits of the plant which they used to make medicinal syrup.
- It can take 100 years for a saguaro cactus to be tall enough to grow a sidearm.
- Surprisingly, lightning is the largest killer or saguaro cactus.