The saguaro cacti (pronounced suh-war-oh) are a common symbol and a ubiquitous presence in the Sonora desert landscape. There are about 1.6 million saguaro plants growing inside the two districts of Saguaro National Park. We visited the western section known as the Tucson Mountain District. This district is hotter and drier. The much larger Rincon Mountain District is about 30 miles east and is a bit cooler and wetter. We checked this area out with our cousins.
The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantean) are only found in the Sonoran desert of northwest Mexico and southern Arizona. Their columns are protected by spines and in the spring they produce white flowers (pollinated by bats) followed by a red fruit in the summer. The saguaros can grow fifty feet tall, live up to 200 years and weigh eight tons. They grow very slowly, about six inches every nine years. Most grow branches or arms. Usually, their arms grow upward, sometimes, however, they look whimsical with arms growing in peculiar directions. Some can grow up to 25 arms.A short hike around Signal Hill Trail was lovely with desert and mountain views. Warnings of prickly plants, rattlesnakes, scorpions and Gila monsters kept us moving along swiftly. The trail is also home to petroglyphs. These were created by the Hohokam people who once roamed this area. It was believed that they scratched these into stones while hunting and gathering more than a thousand years ago. The Arizona desert is a special place to visit and this unique park really made us appreciate what the majestic saguaro cacti endure. Oh, we did cross paths with a western diamond back rattlesnake…fortunately, the snake met his match seconds before we got to him. There aren’t many places where you can explore unending fields of cacti with arms outstretched towards the sky.