The Spirit of Arizona Blog Series:                                     Saguaro National Park 

They stand majestically and silently at attention, silhouetted in the setting sun like some alien form of life with extended arms sprouting every which way.  Their height is remarkable when one considers they grow at the rate of about an inch a year.  Imagine the stories they would tell, if only they could, of what they have seen over their 150 average year life span.  

Taking all of this into account, the Saguaro National Park is a magical place where in addition to the Giant Saguaro, are about 1,162 other species of plants ranging from desert vegetation such as cacti, ocotillo, and creosote in the lower elevations all the way to Ponderosa Pine, Oak and Douglas-fir trees in the upper elevations of the Rincon Mountains.  The Rincon Mountain District of the Saguaro National park includes terrain from under 2,500 feet elevation to 8,666 feet elevation.

Saguaro National Park is composed of two distinct districts:  the Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District.  The Tucson Mountain District lies on the west side Tucson, Arizona, while the Rincon Mountain District lies on the east side of Tucson.  Both districts were formed to protect and exhibit forests of their namesake:  The Saguaro Cactus.

The Saguaro Cactus only grows naturally in the Sonoran Desert.  There are an estimated 1.6 million individual plants growing within the Saguaro National Park.  If you are as curious as I am about the universal symbol of the American West, then you'll want to be sure to check out the Saguaro Cactus Question and Answer Guide.

While the majestic Saguaro Cactus may be the main attraction, the park has much more to offer within its two districts including 165 miles of hiking trails.  So whether you prefer a short interpretive nature trail, a day-long wilderness trek or something in-between there is something for everyone.  

It seems rather fitting that the iconic Saguaro would be the one to give birth to Saguaro National Parkour Arizona State flower, the Saguaro blossom.  In late April through early June, the tops of the saguaro's trunk sprout a profusion of large creamy-white flowers with yellow centers.    Clustered near the ends of the branches, the blossoms open during cooler desert nights and close by the following afternoon.  To produce fruit, they must be pollinated within this time frame. 

Saguaro FruitPollination is carried out by nectar feeding bats, birds and insects.  It is estimated that a saguaro can produce nearly 40 million deeds during it lifetime.  However very few survive to adulthood due to drought, prolonged freezing or animals eating them.  In early Summer, the Tohono O'odham people come to Saguaro National Park to harvest the saguaro fruit

Located on the outskirts of Tucson, and just a short drive from Green Valley, Arizona, the enormous cactus are a must see for the area.  Whether you view the breathtaking scenery from the comfort of your car or on foot, you won't be disappointed.

         JUDI MONDAY, CRS         


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