January 1 – 8, 2012 Saguaros and Friends

Happy New Year to all.
Our big trip this week was to Saguaro National Park near Tucson.  First some info from the internet:
Saguaro Cactus
The life of the saguaro is a struggle from the beginning. The saguaro begins its life as a shiny black seed no bigger that a pinhead. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in numbers. One saguaro produces tens of thousands of seeds in a year, and as many as 40 million in a life time of 175 - 200 years. From the start, the odds against survival are great. Out of all the seeds that saguaro produces in its new life, few will survive to adulthood.
Seeds and young saguaros have the best chance for survival if they are cared for by nurse trees such as palo verde and mesquite. Saguaro seedlings that grow under these sheltering plants are shaded from the desert's intense sunlight, blanketed from winter cold, hidden from rodents, birds and other animals that eat them. Rocks provide similar protection for the young saguaros. Saguaros do best on bajadas, gently sloping outwash plains at the foot of desert mountains.
A saguaro's growth is extremely slow. Growth occurs in spurts, with most of it taking place in the summer rainy season each year. By the end of a year, the saguaro seedling may measure only 1/4 inch. After 15 years, the saguaro may be barely a foot tall. At about 30 years saguaro can begin to flower and produce fruits. By 50 years, the saguaro may be as tall as 7 feet. After about 75 years, it may sprout its first branches or "arms." The branches begin as prickly balls, then extend out and upward.
By 100 years the saguaro may have reached 25 feet. Saguaros that live 150 years or more attain the grandest size, towering as much as 50 feet and weighing 8 tons, sometimes more, dwarfing every other living thing in the desert. These are the largest cacti in the United States. Their huge bulk is supported by a strong but flexible cylinder-shaped framework of long woody ribs.
Saguaros may die of old age, but they also die of other causes. Animals eat the seeds and seedlings, lightning and winds kill large saguaro, and severe droughts weaken and kill all ages. The saguaro is vulnerable during every stage of its life.
Where there is a balance of life and death, saguaro forests thrive. Until recent years, in some forests in the park deaths have greatly outnumbered the growth of new young saguaro. Biologists believe freezes are the park's major cause of saguaro deaths. The saguaros here are at their extreme northern and eastern range, where the coldest winter temperatures most often occur. Humans, too have played a part in the decline. Livestock grazing, which continued from the 1880's until 1979, devastated some cactus forests. Seedlings were killed outright by trampling or were tramping or were unable to find suitable places to grow because the ground had been compacted and nurse plants killed.
Today, with grazing eliminated, recovery of the saguaro is underway in several areas. Thousands of young saguaros have taken hold, and they are thriving. Still natural forces, vandalism, and cactus rustling, the theft of saguaros for use in landscaping, continue to take a toll on the park's saguaro forests.
Information provided by the National Park Service
Other links for more info:
And of course I have pictures:
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Sure looks like it might hurt to stand on the cactus:
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A Saguaro Forest:
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Spines from a dead Saguaro.  Native Americans still use these spines as building materials:
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An abandoned nest in the Saguaro (sometimes known as a “Boot”):
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What a view:
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Almost looks like a snake:
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Saguaro dying:
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Yikees – Check out those hooks on a barrel cactus:
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“Howdy partner!”
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We saw this building on the hillside as we were eating lunch so we just had to check it out.   Turns out it was the original bathrooms built by the CCC – now closed:
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The picnic shelters (originally built by the CCC) where we had lunch:
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A jet in the sky – I am always amazed at how clear the skies are here:
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Since the Saguaro does not get arms until they are over 60 years old, I was always confused on how to tell a young Saguaro from a Barrel Cactus.   And here is the difference.  A young Saguaro will look like a baseball bat – it will have a smaller circumference near the ground.   A barrel cactus will have the same circumference from the ground up.   So now I know - Open-mouthed
I just love National Parks!!

Some of our highlights for this week:
We saw the International Space Station cross over – WOW and more WOW!  The skies are so clear here.
Shelly, Lynne, and I did a girls day in Old Towne Casa Grande.  We visited a number of the shops and had a great lunch at the local diner.   A WONDERFUL day.
One of the murals downtown:
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We celebrated Fred’s Birthday and Lynne and Fred’s Anniversary at the Moose in Arizona City. (Can I say great time again.)
I had a soup and bread dinner on New Year’s Day.  I made raisin bread for the first time – Yummy! (Tina, you would be proud of me  -  :-)).
We had a potluck on Thursday at Bill and Shelly’s – Yum!
And filling our days with visiting, socializing, line dancing – just generally having a grand time.
Our group on New Year’s Eve – Bill, Shelly, Andy, Lynne, and Fred.   Lee and Brenda also joined us but I didn’t get a picture.
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Our time here has come to an end and we will be heading out to Yuma on Monday morning for a week and then to Boomerville in Quartzsite for a while.  So stay tuned.

Enjoy today.


Susan Stevenson said...

I just LOVE that park! My husband and I visited about ten years ago. I couldn't believe how tall they were! What a beautiful part of the country. Loved the photos!

Diane said...

Thanks Susan. And thanks for the compliments. The park was wonderful and we hope to return. Enjoy.