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Flaigg, Norman G.
Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britt. & Rose
Synonyms: Carnegia gigantea var. saguaro, Cereus giganteus
USDA Symbol: CAGI10
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Saguaro grows to 50 ft. in height; its tremendous weight, up to nine tons, is supported by a skeleton of about two dozen spongy, wooden rods. Accordian pleats contract as they gain and lose moisture. White flowers open after nightfall and close by late afternoon the following day. Saguaro has fleshy red fruit. Giant, leafless, columnar tree cactus with massive, spiny trunk and usually 2-10 stout, nearly erect, spiny branches.
Native Americans made use of the entire cactus: they ate the fruit both fresh and dried and made it into preserves and beverages; the framework of ribs provided wood for shelters, fences, and kindling. Giant Saguaro (pronounced sah-WAH-ro), the largest native cactus, is the state flower of Arizona and a symbol of desert landscapes. Well-adapted to its hot, dry climate, Giant Saguaro is leafless. Food is manufactured in the green stems, and rainwater is absorbed quickly by the shallow roots and stored in the succulent trunks and branches. The thick, spreading spines offer protection against animals. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers make round holes near the tops of branches for nests that are used afterwards by elf owls, cactus wrens, and other birds. Wildlife, especially white-winged doves, consume quantities of the seeds.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Cactus/Succulent Size Notes:
up to 46 ft.tall, 2 ft. thick. Leaf:
Yellow-Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun
Bloom Notes: nocturnal flowers
AZ , CA Native Distribution:
In AZ – Yavapai & Mohave to Graham, Santa Cruz, Pine & Yuma Cos.; local in adjacent CA & Mex. Native Habitat:
Rocky foothills; canyons; washes; sandy or gravelly desert plains USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low Light Requirement:
Sun Soil Moisture:
Dry CaCO3 Tolerance:
High Soil Description:
Sandy or gravelly, well-drained soils. Conditions Comments:
Saguaro cacti are protected by law and require government tags for purchase or transport. These are very slow-growing plants that live up to 250 years. The fleshy fruit
BenefitUse Wildlife: Flowers attract bees, bats and doves. Fruits attract many birds and mammals. Birds often nest in holes in the trunk.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
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Record Modified: 2010-09-09
Research By: TWC Staff