Friday, October 12, 2007

Arm in Arm Cacti

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea Gigantea ) is the state symbol of Arizona, appearing on all car license plates, and provides a universally recognized image of the Southwest. It is the largest and one of the slowest growing of all cacti, reaching up to 15 meters high and living for several centuries. Plants can weigh up to 8 tons, partly because of the large amount of water the stems can hold - after rainfall the cactus can absorb hundreds of gallons in a short time. The saguaro may be only 6 inches high after 10 years, and the characteristic branched appearance is reached only after around 80 years. The cactus is widespread across southern Arizona, extreme southeast California and Sonora, north Mexico. Distribution is related to latitude and altitude - it is most commonly found between 1,000 & 3,000 feet, and because the saguaro can tolerate temperatures as low as -4 °C, it survives further north than any of the other species of large cactus. In the spring, the saguaro produce white flowers on the upper stems of mature plants so this is an especially good time to visit. Later, sweet edible red fruit appear, traditionally used by the local Indian tribes as food and also to make wine..

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