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Carnegiea gigantea (Saguaro)

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Scientific Name

Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Common Names

Saguaro, Saguaro Cactus, Sahuaro, Giant Cactus, Sage of the Desert

Synonyms

Cereus giganteus (basionym), Pilocereus engelmannii, Pilocereus giganteus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Echinocereeae
Genus: Carnegiea

Description

Carnegiea gigantea is a tall, tree-like, columnar cactus up to 65 feet (20 m) tall. The ribbed stem can reach up to 2.5 feet (75 cm) in diameter. It is the largest columnar cactus native to the United States but is extremely slowly-growing, reaching only 0.24 inch (0.6 cm) tall after two years. It flowers once it has reached about 30 to 35 years of age and a height of about 6.6 feet (2 m). The first branches appear after it has reached a height of about 16.5 feet (5 m) and an age of 50 to 70 years. The white flowers appear just below the top of the stem and they are up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) long and up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) in diameter. The edible, red, fleshy fruits are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long.  The Saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona.

Photo via hqworld.net

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 8a to 11b: from 10 °F (−12.2 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

It is not legal to procure a Saguaro Cactus for home cultivation by digging it out of the desert. Beyond that, mature Saguaro cactus plants almost always die when transplanted.

Saguaro Cactus babies grow under the protection of nurse trees. The cactus will continue to grow and often its nurse tree will expire. It is thought the cactus may cause the nurse tree to die by competing for resources. The nurse trees provide Saguaro Cactus babies with shelter from the harsh rays of the sun and dispersing moisture from evaporation.

Saguaro Cactus needs to grow in well-drained grit and receive low levels of water, with the soil drying out completely between irrigation. Annually fertilizing with cactus food in spring will help the plant complete its growth cycle… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for a Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

Origin

Native to the Sonoran Desert in the United States, state of Arizona, the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California and the Mexican state of Sonora.

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