Friday, April 03, 2009

My Texas Saguaro

So I am 98% sure that this cactus is a saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-roh). If you don't know what a saguaro is, it's one of those giant cacti that have the big arms. I had no idea that they were called saguaros before I moved out here to Arizona. The saguaro is pretty much the mascot of Arizona and the southwest - there's even one on the Arizona quarter.

The interesting thing about my saguaro is that it is not in Arizona. It's at my parent's house in south Texas. Back when I was still in grade school I got one of those little greenhouse cactus seed kits while on vacation at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I'm not sure exactly when that trip was but I am guessing it was between 10 and 15 years ago.

This cactus was the only one to survive from the kit. It finally outgrew the little pot we had it in so we re-planted it in the back yard. I never really given much thought as to what type of cactus it was - I thought it was some type of barrel cactus until I noticed that it getting taller but not wider as a barrel cactus should. It's shape made me think of a saguaro, so I started researching them online.

After a few days of searching, I was almost convinced that it wasn't a saguaro because many sources said that a ten year old cacti would only be 1.5 to 6 inches tall. As you can see from the photo above, mine is between 2.5 to 3 feet tall! But after doing some more research I found that those heights were for wild cacti in the desert. Since Texas is slightly wetter than Arizona (and since my parents probably watered it occasionally) my saguaro probably grew faster than it would have in the wild.

I compared my cactus to pictures of saguaros and to saguaros I've visited in real life here in Arizona - I couldn't find anything that made me think that my cactus wasn't a saguaro. The main identifying trait that I found mentioned online was that in each group of spines, there is one spine that is much larger than all the others and points downwards. You can see this on my cactus here:

So all these things together have led me to the decision that my cactus is a saguaro! After living here in Arizona where saguaros are a big deal (a full grown one can cost thousands of dollars), it's fun to know that I grew one without really trying! And that's even more special since it's in south Texas, which is not really it's native habitat (there are no wild saguaros in Texas or even in New Mexico). It's kind of cool to think that my parents are probably the only people in my hometown with a saguaro in their yard!

(By the way, if anyone who has some cacti knowledge thinks that this might not be a saguaro, please let me know why not and what you think it might actually be. I'm no expert so it's very possible that I'm wrong!)

Update 9/29/11: I've posted an update with photos of how the saguaro has grown over the past two years.


Anonymous said...

Texas Saguaro - your cactus is a Saguaro. They are supposed to grow about 0.3 feet per year (with proper watering, right temperature, right elevation, etc.).

Some of the biggest ones are 45 to 50 feet tall and are estimated at 150 years old. It takes 30+ years for it to grow an 'arm'.

The final 'test' to see if it is a Saguaro is to examine one of the long spines. Saguaro cactus spines look like a ring-tailed cat with 'growth rings' going from the base to the tip.

Cat Carlisle said...

Cool, thanks for the information!

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