Hand Painted Engraving
107 x 76 cm
Saguaros are America’s largest cacti and found only in the Sonoran Desert.
They range north to the edge of the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona and along the Colorado River in South-eastern California, defining the landscape and forming entire forests.
They grow slowly, some only 1 inch in their first eights years, but once mature can reach 60 feet high. The supply of water affects their growth. When they are fully hydrated they can weight up to four tons.
At 35 years they begin to flower, at 50 years they produce their first arm. They are fully mature at 125 years and can live up to two centuries.
The flowers open during the night until early morning, and are pollinated by bats, bees and moths that feed upon their nectar.
As well as a food source, Saguaros provide homes for birds and small mammals.
When gila woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis) make their nests, the plant’s flesh produces a tough lining to the cavity, which seals it from the surrounding living tissue. At the end of a Saguaro’s life, the nest’s lining remains intact and is known as a ‘Saguaro boot’. The native americans used them as containers.
The fruits were a staple food of the Pima and Tohono O’odham. They were eaten fresh or turned into juice, vinegar, syrup, wine (for the rain-making ceremony) or jam.
They can hold up to 2,000 nutty-tasting seeds and are ground into flour or used as chicken feed.
The Tohono O’odham revered the species and organised their calendar around the saguaro’s annual fruiting cycle.
The internal skeleton of dead stems provided firewood, building material (especially for roof beams) and splints for broken bones.
Urban development, especially near Phoenix and Tucson is beginning to diminish the Saguaro’s population.
Thirty-one percent of cactus species are threatened with extinction. This loss has far- reaching consequences for the ecosystems of dry lands and for the local communities, which depend upon them.
Specimens taken from the wild are particularly sought after due to their scarcity. Asian and European collectors are the biggest drivers of cactus trafficking.