A recent article in our Tucson, Arizona paper highlighted a rare form of Saguaro cactus which grows bizarre and sometimes beautiful fan-shaped crests. The growing tip produces a fan like form which is referred to as
crested or cristate. Scientists haven’t yet found a definitive cause for this unusual growth. It could be genetic mutation, a lightning strike, or freeze damage. Only one in 200,000 mutates like this, so we are privileged to have one on our property, Hacienda del Desierto Bed & Breakfast. The picture is of the one on our Tucson Bed & Breakfast property.
The main trunk of a mature Saguaro may be 40’ high and 2’ thick. A woody inner skeleton provides the strength to support ten arms or more. They start to grow when the cactus is around 60 years old. They can live about 200 years. The medium green skin covers 12-24 ribs which expand and contract depending on the among of stored moisture within the plant. In May and June, in a tree at least 35 years old, the tips of the arms and the main stem are crowned with funnel-shaped, 3” wide flowers with waxy white petals. Each flower blooms only once, opening at night and staying open into the next day. The smooth-skinned green fruits, the size and shape of a chicken egg, split open at maturity. The pulp, which contains tiny black seeds, is edible and very tasty. Baby Sahuaro like to grow in the shelter of trees like the Palo Verde or Mesquite. Frequently, one or two end up growing right up through the tree. A mature Sahauro can weigh 6 tons and be 50’ tall.
The sahuaro provides a home to a variety of birds: gilded flicker, Gila woodpecker, owls, purple martins, finches, sparrows, ravens, and hawks.