South of Tucson, Arizona, Saguaro cactus dominate the landscape with their giant trunks and arms reaching up, like those wacky, inflatable tube men you see along the highways, advertising a big sale of some sort.
Giant stems of Saguaro rise way above the rest of the vegetation, like giant sentinels.
Life stages of the Saguaro shown here–from an early (25 yr old) barrel shaped youngster, to 75 year old cactus just growing its first arm, to a mature many-armed giant 200 or more years old, to the woody remains of a dead Saguaro.
Saguaro are not only a dominant plant form in the Sonoran desert, but an integral part of the life cycle of this community. It’s flowers provide nectar and pollen to insects, birds, and mammals, and its fruits are sought after by humans as well as many other desert animals.
Flowers appear on the tops of the cacti in April, remain open for less than 24 hours, but provide huge amounts of nectar and pollen to attract pollinators.
The Saguaro flowers are loaded with pollen from the hundreds of stamen projecting out the floral tube. Bats and birds reach the nectaries at the base of the flower with their long tongues.
After Gila Woodpeckers have drilled out nest cavities in the dense wood of the Saguaro, a variety of other bird species may use the nest holes as protection from the sun’s heat and for their own nests.
A pair of Gila Woodpeckers nesting in Saguaro. Cactus Wrens and Elf Owls might get a chance to use this nest hole once the Woodpeckers are finished with it.
And of course, they make wonderful subjects for aspiring photographers…