Disclaimer: If you have no interest in the Saguaro Cactus, you may skip the rest of this blog, leaving you time to check out what is currently on C-Span.
Question: What is the state wildflower of Arizona?
Answer: The Saguaro Cactus
Tucson is in the Sonora Desert, which is one of the few places where the Saguaro Cactus grows. As we hike the mountains around Tucson, we see them everywhere and in all shapes and sizes. One of us (no names please) has become enamored with a rare Saguaro known as a Crested Saguaro. She (remember, no names please) has been reading blogs and web sites that discuss this rare cactus, and if one is identified in the area, off we go to see if we can locate this wonderful (in her opinion) plant. Right now many readers are probably burning with desire to answer the obvious questions: What is a Crested Saguaro?
Even when saguaro cacti grow in their normal form, they rarely grow symmetrically. Saguaros sometimes grow in odd or misshapen forms. The growing tip occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate. The cause of cresting is not fully explained; biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation (similar to one in humans that creates a desire to see them). Others say it is the result of lightning strike or freeze damage. But whatever the stimulus, the growth point of the stem has switched from a geometric point, to a line, which folds and undulates as the crest expands. Though these crested saguaros are somewhat rare (1 in 250,000), cresting occurs naturally throughout the range of the Saguaro, and can be encountered in many other cactus species.
Below are pictures of three Crested Saguaros we have found in nearby Tucson Mountain Park. The first one was listed in a blog as being in the northern section of the park. We located it on a map and only had to hike a couple of miles to see it. A couple on horseback said they lived nearby and have observed it for over thirty years. They told us that at one time it had a number of arms that have since fallen off.
The second example of a Crested Saguaro is found off the Starr Pass Trail near where it intersects with the Yetman Trail. We parked the Jeep at the 36th Street trail head and made a six mile loop in the park, passing this cactus at about mile 4.5.
As we drove out of the park, Miss Crested Saguaro Eyes saw another Crested Saguaro just off the road. Thankfully she allowed the Jeep to come to a complete stop before leaping out the door and heading into the desert to get a few pictures.
Tomorrow we join with Hans and Lisa (their blog) on a hike in Sabino Canyon, so the Crested Saguaro Queen may get another chance to see one of these rare plants.
More on that later . . .