FC: The Great Saguaro Cactus By Maggie Murphy
1: Saguaro cacti have a real talent for surviving in harsh desert climates where they grow, flower, and even provide for fellow desert creatures.
2: Size & Appearance Saguaro cacti are the biggest cacti in America. They can grow up to be 40 to 60 feet tall and, when wet, can weigh 3,200 to 4,800 pounds. Saguaro cacti grow slowly and one might only be one and a half inches tall in its first ten years of life. An old Saguaro can have up to 25 arms! Like most cacti, Saguaros are green and have sharp needles on the outside of them. These needles are long and protect the cactus from other animals, as well as the extreme heat by only letting in a little bit of sunlight.
3: The Saguaro's Life Cycle Every Saguaro begins its journey as a tiny black seed. If it is lucky, it will grow up in the shade and protection of a taller nearby tree, or a nurse tree. Around the age of 50-100 years, they begin growing arms. They will grow more arms if there is more moisture. There are some Saguaros who will never grow arms at all. The arms grow upward and sometimes when the arms are still growing, frost an damage them and cause them to droop. Saguaros live for about 200 years.
4: Flowers & Fruit When a Saguaro cactus is about 8 feet tall, it blooms for the first time. If the Saguaro is getting all of the water it needs, it should start to flower around the age of 40. Otherwise, it will start to bloom around 70-75 years of age. Saguaros bloom yearly from the end of April to June. The flowers are white and grow in groups on top of the Saguaro. Each is about 3 inches wide and will only bloom for about 24 hours. The flowers open an hour or two after the sun goes down and will be wilted by two or three o' clock the next day.
5: If the flowers have been pollinated by bees, they will turn into fruit in late June or early July. The fruit is juicy and red, and each fruit might hold up to 2,000 black seeds! Since water is scarce in the desert, Saguaro fruit is an important water source for its desert friends.
6: Fame In The Desert The Sonoran desert is famous for the Saguaro cacti that live there. The Saguaro is also famous with the other animals in the desert. They provide places that birds can nest and perch. Insects, birds, and bats eat the pollen from the flowers that the Saguaros produce. When they grow fruit during the summer months, Foxes, squirrels and ants are happy to munch on it. Gila Woodpeckers and Elf Owls find homes in the Saguaro and snakes find shade from the hot sun there in the daytime. Termites, Black Widow spiders, scorpions, and centipedes live in Saguaros after they die.