The Living Desert
Home  >  Plants  >  Saguaro


Carnegiea gigantea


Cactaceae, Cactus Family




Sonoran Desert in Arizona, Mexican States of Sonora, Baja California and California


Rocky terrain on desert slopes and flats

Living Desert Location:

Yuman Garden, Foothills of Sonora Garden


The Saguaro blossom is the state flower of Arizona and is an important plant for many mammals, birds and insects.

The Saguaro, a large tree-sized cactus, occurs in an extremely small area of California. Within its range, it can occur in great abundance, forming thick forests among desert trees and shrubs. It is very common in the Arizona Upland around Tucson and Phoenix.

Desert trees such as Mesquites, Ironwoods and Palo Verdes are termed “nurse plants” because they help the saguaro seedlings obtain successful development. The trees aid the developing seedlings from being eaten, provide shade and help retain moisture to the soil.

It takes approximately 75 years for the Saguaro to develop a side arm. Additional branches ensure an increase in the plant’s reproductive capacity, thus allowing space for more flowers, fruits and seeds. The seeds are mostly dispersed by birds. The Saguaro can live to be up to 200 years old, 45 feet tall and attain a 10 foot girth.

The night blooming flowers of the saguaro are white with yellow centers and measure about 3 inches. They are typically pollinated by the Lesser Long-nosed bat and the Mexican Long-nosed bat.

The saguaro is well known for its “monstrose” growth which can occur when the apical meristem of the plant is damaged from factors such as frost or insects predation.

Zoo News