POTD: Bug Eyed Saguaro

Bug Eyed Saguaro
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Once you start seeing faces in things, it’s kind of hard to stop. I didn’t even need a nose or mouth to see a strange face in this cactus.

2 thoughts on “POTD: Bug Eyed Saguaro”

  1. Stephen E Johnson

    This got me thinking about saguaro reproduction. Here is what Dr. Google yielded. They can be grown from seeds but the “arms” can also be planted. There seems to be controversy about about the latter method. Below is a “backyard” horticulturist’s experience. Below that is a link to a study done on cloning a saguaro from genetic material and adding to common rooting solutions which possibly might argue for broken arms managing to root either naturally or with human help.

    Bruce T. Law
    Artist, Bruce Law Fine Wood Sculptures, 612 W. Honda Bow Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85027
    As an artist, I use the wood from the saguaro cactus. While researching sources for the wood, I made an agreement with the City of Scottsdale and was granted permission to harvest cactus skeletons from city owned properties in exchange for replanting new cacti. Several years prior, I had planted arms from a giant saguaro on my own property. The arms had successfully rooted and were healthy.

    When I realized how many saguaros damaged by fire could be saved in this way, I contacted the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department. Together, we established a nursery aimed at rescuing fire damaged saguaros at McDowell Mountain Park. Many saguaros fatally damaged by fire are burnt only at the base. The upper arms remain green until they starve from lack of nutrients. One mature saguaro damaged by fire may yield 6 to 10 new saguaros rooted from the arms. Because many of the arms are 2 to 5 feet tall when rooted, they have a 20 to 30 year head start over saguaros sprouted from seeds.

    I currently have more than 50 saguaro arms successfully rooted; many are more than 1.5 years old. During the project, I discovered that the arms required more moisture than entire cacti, therefore planting them in soil with little drainage, watering them frequently, and using rooting hormones and wood ashes was important. The University of Arizona told me that they would live for two years but would not grow roots. Contrary to this, I spoke with many individuals who have successfully grown saguaros from the arms and have kept them alive for up to 17 years.

    This project has proven to be beneficial in the restoration of fire damaged deserts. Developers can use these techniques in salvaging cacti that are too large to transplant whole by removing and replanting the arms as well as the trunk.


    1. Interesting but not too surprising, at least for cacti in general. When I lived in Tucson way back when I had a prickly pear pad that I brought home and just threw on the ground next to my house and forgot about it. (I think I had intended to try and plant it, but that was a long time ago.) A couple of months went by and I decided to pick it up and throw it away but discovered that roots had grown out of the bottom surface of the pad and it was firmly attached to the ground, so I left it there. A few years back, I drove by that house when I was back in Tucson. That prickly pear now stands some 8-10 feet high.

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