Posts Tagged ‘Saguaro National Park’

Barrel cactus look a lot like a spiny barrel. No surprise, right? But you might be surprised at how beautiful the flowers are. Yellow and orange are the most common colors, pink and red less frequent. But whatever the color, the flowers only bloom on top of the cactus. Barrel cactus are usually about 3′ or less, although some have been found as tall as 9′. Whatever the height, they can live to be 100 years old.

Fun fact, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Barrel cactus can fall over because they grow based on sun orientation. They usually grow towards the south to prevent surface tissue sunburn, giving the name “compass cactus.”

And here’s my favorite cactus quote:

I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, D**n. I am less nurturing than a desert. ~Demetri Martin

As with all cactus, admire the flowers, but don’t forget the spines!

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the cacti found in Saguaro National Park. One of the first places to get out and walk that we encountered was a paved loop giving great views of a variety of cacti, a number of which were in flower or had fruit. There’s quite a bit of room between many of the cacti, but be careful where you step and don’t back up without looking!

Here’s a lovely bunch of prickly pear cactus with fruit. Prickly pear jelly can be found in the Southwest and the fruit can be eaten but you have to be very careful to completely removed the outside so no spines of any size are left. I think I’ll stick with jelly!

When I started this post I didn’t realize that cholla, the type of cactus I’m showcasing next, used to be part of the same genus as prickly pear, despite what this information board says, but have now been separated because of some differences we wouldn’t notice, . However, the board does show how important each part of the desert flora and fauna are.

I also didn’t realize that there are boatload of species of opuntia, not a hundred, but a LOT! If you’re interested in identifying the flowers, this is (un)likely to help and made me laugh:

The flowers are typically large, axillary, solitary, bisexual, and epiperigynous, with a perianth consisting of distinct, spirally arranged tepals and a hypanthium.

If you do know what all those mean, do NOT tell us or I will ban you from the blog and flog you with a wet noodle or possibly o-puntia you across the desert for being a showoff!

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These small cactus were everywhere at Saguaro National Park. They might be small, but take notice of the multitudinous spines! Don’t mess with small. They have large, beautiful flowers and the bees, as you can see, loved them. The cactus, mammillaria grahamii or mammillaria microcarpa, has a rather unfortunate common name: Graham’s nipple cactus. I have no idea where that came from as the resemblance isn’t evident to me!! Even Madonna at her worst wasn’t as sharp as this.

Let’s go with its other common name: Arizona fishhook cactus. This is a rather specialized cactus found in a small area of west California, southwest and south Arizona, southwest New Mexico and a few small areas of far west Texas

We’re taking a break from Wyoming this week (but we will definitely be back there again) to start a series about a walk we took to Saguaro National Park on Saturday. My husband’s been working nonstop since the middle of July and this was the first opportunity he’s had to get out of the area around our house. So we took advantage of it.

When you think of cacti, you’re likely to think of the iconic saguaro (sue-waar’-oh), its arms extending upward, and in southern Arizona near Tuscon, these giants have their own national park. Saguaro National Monument was created in 1933 and there have been several additions since that time and the switch to a national park. We’ll focus just the saguaro today, even though there are a plethora of cactus types here.

The saguaro isn’t just another pretty face! It serves as an apartment for a variety of desert creatures, one reason you see one often pockmarked with openings.

It’s difficult to imagine or convey how many saguaros there are in the park. To say there’s a forest of them isn’t to understate! I found myself laughing and shaking my head quite a few times during the day when I saw how many there were.

If you (carefully) touch a saguaro, you’ll feel a hard surface. The accordion-like skin expands when full and shrinks when conditions are drier. As odd as it seems to us, all those spines provide a sort of shade for the cactus. But a cactus can also die, as seen in the photo below. That’s really a cactus skeleton.

Not every saguaro is in lockstep with the traditional, expected arms-up posture. Some have a much more quirky look.

I plan to come back here in spring when there will be millions of beautiful white flowers, Arizona’s state flowers, atop the arms. Bee, birds, and bats love these flowers while providing pollination. The flowers are only open for a short time but flower sequentially and there are also red fruit. Take a quick look here for more information and photos. It’s well worth your time to learn more about this keystone species. Here’s an unusual tidbit to close off our visit for today:

In 1982, a man was killed after damaging a saguaro. David Grundman was shooting and poking at a saguaro cactus in an effort to make it fall. An arm of the cactus, weighing 500 lb (230 kg), fell onto him, crushing him and his car. The trunk of the cactus then also fell on him. The Austin Lounge Lizards wrote the song “Saguaro” about this death. Wikipedia

That makes this Farmer’s Insurance ad entirely possible. (Note: no endorsement here except for a good commercial.)

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/dOx6/farmers-insurance-hall-of-claims-cactus-calamity

for Jo’s Monday Walk