What Is A Saguaro Cactus

One of the species that characterizes the Sonoran Desert is the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea). These plants are huge, tree-like columnar cacti, some of which never sprout arms or branches as they age. There may be over 25 of these arms, which often curve upward. Protective spines cover saguaros, which also have white blooms in the late spring and red fruit in the summer.


Only the Sonoran Desert is home to saguaros. Temperature and water are the two main elements that affect growth. The saguaro can be killed by frost and cold weather if the height is too high. Although both winter and summer rains occur in the Sonoran Desert, it is believed that the Saguaro receives the majority of its moisture during the summer rainy season.


This cactus can be found in western Sonora, Mexico, and southern Arizona. They are more common on the warmer south-facing hills in the northern part of their range. Southeast California is also home to a few stray flora.


Cactus called saguaro grow very slowly. A plant that is 10 years old might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro trees can reach heights of 40 to 60 feet (12-18m). When the saguaro is well-hydrated and there is plenty of rain, it can weigh between 3200 and 4800 pounds.

Quick Facts

The majority of the saguaro plant’s roots are merely 4-6 inches deep and extend outward as far as its height from the plant. One deep root, or tap root, penetrates the ground more than two feet deep.

When a saguaro dies, its woody ribs can be utilized to make furniture, fences, and roofs. Among the dead saguaros are the “saguaro boots,” or holes where birds formerly built their nests. Before the canteen was invented, Native Americans used these as water bottles.

What makes the saguaro cactus unique?

1. Saguaros can reach heights of more than 40 feet, making them the largest cactus species in the United States. (The huge cardon cactus, which is found in some regions of Mexico, is the largest species in North America.)

2. The average saguaro can live for 100 to 200 years. (However, according to Kevin Hultine, a plant physiologist at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden, “We are not fully convinced of the true age of some of the largest individuals.”)

Why only in Arizona do saguaro cacti exist?

Cactus Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)

The saguaro cactus, which “the American West, pronounced sah-wah-roh. We constantly encounter images of these cacti as a representation of the American Desert. Without looking closely at one of these well-known desert plants, a vacation to the Sonoran Desert is not complete. Almost everyone who has seen one has been captivated by these enormous green columnar cactuses. Even more significant to the native Tohono O’Odham are the saguaro cacti. The Tohono O’Odham see the huge cacti as revered tribe members rather than as plants. They see them as a distinct kind of humanity.

Although the saguaro cactus has come to represent the American West, it can only be found in the Sonoran desert. The saguaro cactus’s geographic range is constrained to southern Arizona since it is a desert indicator species. From sea level to an elevation of around 4000 feet, saguaro cacti can thrive. The saguaro cactus will limit its growth to the warmer, south-facing slopes the further north and higher in elevation you go. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is home to a large number of saguaro cacti. Impressive “saguaro forests may be spotted along the Ajo Mountain Drive.

The saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 40 feet tall, is the biggest cactus in the country. Over 78 feet high, the tallest saguaro cactus ever measured stood. All of the saguaro cactus’ growth takes place at the tip, or top, of the cactus, which grows like a column at a very slow rate. A saguaro cactus may take ten years to grow just an inch tall. A saguaro cactus can grow to a height of 6 and a half feet and begin to bear flowers at the age of 70. A saguaro cactus can grow to a height of 15 to 16 feet and begin to sprout its first arm by the time it is 95 to 100 years old. The saguaro cactus reaches its maximum height of up to 45 feet tall when it is 200 years old. While some saguaros develop dozens of arms, other cacti never produce even one. One of the unsolved mysteries of the desert is why this occurs.

The saguaro cactus is an expert at surviving in the desert. This plant was created from the ground up to survive in the sometimes hostile Sonoran Desert. The saguaro cactus’ epidermis is covered in a thick layer of waxy material that prevents water loss through transpiration and waterproofs the plant. To protect the water that is kept inside, the cactus has bristles that are both flexible and have sharp spines.

A saguaro cactus has an equally remarkable root system. The cactus will grow a sizable, solitary taproot that will extend straight down into the ground for around five feet. The cactus can get water that is kept underground thanks to this taproot. The saguaro cactus’ primary roots differ greatly from other cacti. A huge network of roots that resemble a maze is sent out by the cactus quite near to the surface. These roots are typically 3 inches or less below the surface, allowing the cactus to easily catch any rain that may fall.

Instantaneously, very little water is used. Instead, the majority of the water collected is eventually stored within the cactus for use during dry spells. A tissue that resembles a sponge fills the interior of the cactus and serves as a reservoir for the water. The cactus’ skin starts to grow as more water is stored, providing additional space for storage. When a result, as more and more water is stored, the saguaro cactus can get rather hefty. A Saguaro cactus foot can weigh up to 90 pounds when fully grown, and a whole Saguaro can weigh over a ton.

The saguaro cactus blooms from late spring to early summer. The flowering typically takes place between April and June. The milky-white blossoms give forth a sweet nectar that draws a variety of bat species. These bats consume flower nectar while also helping to pollinate the saguaro cactus. The bats will begin to devour the cactus fruit when it begins to produce fruit, which will help disperse saguaro seeds over the desert.

What is the purpose of the saguaro cactus?

The Hohokam people of the Tucson region employed saguaros in their daily lives, according to archeological data. The structure for the walls of their homes was built out of the sturdy, wooden ribs.

In addition, saguaro ribs were employed to harvest the plant’s high-growing saguaro fruits. A cross-shaped component was attached at the end to connect the various ribs. Ripe fruit was lowered from the top of the plants using these long poles. After that, people would assemble to eat. It is thought that the Tohono O’odham of today are Hohokam ancestors. The saguaro is revered as a holy plant in O’odham culture and should always be treated with care. The calendar is based on the cycles of the saguaro and features saguaro-related rites, such as one that involves fermenting saguaro fruit into wine.

As their forefathers did, the modern Tohono O’odham now pick saguaro fruit. They prepare the ceremonial wine from the sweet fruits, as well as jelly and candy. The saguaro seeds, which are strong in protein, are also used as poultry feed.

What distinguishes a saguaro from a cactus?

Fortunately, there are numerous, relatively simple methods for distinguishing between a saguaro and a barrel cactus. Let’s go over each one.

Size and Shape

The size and height of a saguaro cactus vs a barrel cactus are the most noticeable differences. Saguaros can reach a height of 50 feet, but it can take them 200 years to do so. The maximum height of a barrel cactus is only five to ten feet. Therefore, if the cactus you are observing is tree height, it is most likely a saguaro.

Of course, certain cacti species, like the prickly pear, can reach heights greater than your hip. However, they are not as spherical or swollen as barrel or saguaro cactus.

It should be rather simple to identify the species of cactus you’re looking at, even from equal heights.

A barrel cactus will never have branches, although a saguaro usually has a few. They won’t have any branches, although they might grow in bunches like rounded cactus.

Lastly, a saguaro will be narrower than it is tall. In relation to their height, barrel cacti are incredibly sturdy and thick. Remember that juvenile saguaro will be more angular than round, so keep that in mind!


In North America’s Sonoran Desert, which stretches from northwest Mexico to the western part of Arizona, saguaro cactus are found (and a bit of California or Baja California). Outside of this region, it’s most likely not a saguaro.

Meanwhile, the saguaro’s range is largely occupied by barrel cacti in the southwest of the United States.


Both barrel and saguaro cacti produce edible fruits. Saguaro fruits are around four inches long and emerge from the top of the shrub. They are oval in shape, crimson, and have spines.

Depending on the species, barrel cactus fruit can vary, although they are often yellowish or greenish. They are only two inches across and have a strong bitter flavor.


Beautiful and white, saguaro flowers are stunning. It makes sense that it is Arizona’s official flower. The top of the plant and the tips of the branches are where the flowers develop. While a barrel cactus typically has orange, yellow, or pink flowers. When the plant is extremely old, they begin to grow in a circle around the top of the plant.

Root Systems

Although you might not be able to see the cactus’ root systems, there would be a noticeable change if you did. Deep roots help saguaro cacti maintain their height. A barrel cactus’ weak roots extend outward from the plant’s base.

Saguaro and barrel cacti both have a lifespan of more than 100 years. They contribute to the ecosystem by feeding animals and providing nesting space for some birds. You’ll discover that spotting the differences between these cactus species is easy with a little observation and practice!

What is the cost of a saguaro cactus?

Southwest Arizona, western Sonora, Mexico, and even a few locations in southeast California are home to saguaro cacti. They are typically found in the northern regions on slopes that face south, where the sun shines more frequently. The Saguaro Cactus is covered in protecting needles and bears a red fruit in the summer as well as tiny white blooms in the late spring.

Only in the Sonoran Desert does the suguaro cactus, also known as Carnegiea Gigantea, flourish.

A Saguaro will only grow about one to one and a half inches in its first eight years.

Moving a saguaro cactus off of private or public land without a permit is against the law in Arizona.

Saguaro cactus roots spread out like an accordion to take in as much water as they can.

Arizona’s state flower is the saguaro bloom, which blooms only after a saguaro has reached the age of 35.


The saguaro is a unique species of plant that can get rather big yet develops extremely slowly. The saguaro’s weight and height are often astounding, and the plant’s beauty is emblematic and significant to the magnificent state of Arizona.

  • Arizona has rules and limitations on the gathering, harvesting, and disposal of these cactus. To learn more about the rules that apply to your region, get in touch with your neighborhood government.
  • The Saguaro can survive for 150 to 200 years in the appropriate growing circumstances.
  • The cactus has one major root that extends down approximately 2 feet while the remaining roots all extend out till they reach the height of the plant and only go down about 5 inches.
  • Saguaro growth is particularly slow. A saguaro may only be 1.5 inches tall after a whole decade of growth. They can potentially grow to a height of 40–60 feet under the right circumstances! After a rainy season, a completely hydrated Saguaro may weigh between 3,200 and 4,800 pounds.
  • Arizona legislation allows for the collection of saguaro “ribs,” which are used to create jewelry, furniture, roofs, fences, picture frames, and other things. Even the Native Americans used the ribs as water containers before the canteen was created.


According to DFRanchandGardens, the average price of a saguaro cactus in the US for 2020 is between $20 and $2,000 per foot.

The saguaro will cost less the smaller it is, according to osieOnTheHouse. However, if they are merely spears and in good condition, they typically sell for $100 or more per foot. The price of saguaros with arms is higher.

If planted, do saguaro arms grow?

Six to ten new saguaros can be rooted from the arms of one senior saguaro that has been burned. They have a 20 to 30 year advantage over saguaros that sprang from seeds since many of the arms are 2 to 5 feet tall when rooted. At this time, I have successfully rooted more than 50 saguaro arms, several of which are more than 1.5 years old.