This is the signature plant of the Sonoran Desert : it does not exist anywhere else in the world It is a tall column-shaped cactus with pleated stems. It can grow to 40' (12m) .
The saguaro produces white flowers in Spring. It has a shallow root system, and can absorb gallons of water during a single rainfall. The pleats in its trunk allow for expansion, so that it can hold tons of water, to last through the periods of low rainfall.
The waxy, tough coat minimises loss of water by evaporation. It can live up to 200 years. However, they can be damaged sometimes by sudden frosts, lightning, high winds. Smaller saguaros live under 'nurse' plants, which provide shelter during the early years.
The seeds swallowed by animals and birds pass through their digestive system unharmed. When deposited under trees and shrubs they are given a chance to germinate. Harvester ants gather seeds by the million, and store them in an underground food reservoir, too deep for the seeds to sprout.
Fortunately, the Saguaro produces enough seeds to more than compensate for this loss
The cavities in the stems are made by woodpeckers, and they use them as nests. Once the woodpeckers move out these homes are soon adopted by other visitors, such as elf owls, flycatchers, purple martins, and brown bats.
Want to know more about how plants and animals can survive in the Sonoran desert? We have a Powerpoint presentation you can download and use! Download Survival in the Desert now!