I was riding with an old cowboy down in the southern part of Arizona. The old gent had inadverntly been brushed into a Teddy Bear Cholla, (pronounced "choy-ya") by his horse. While using two twigs to remove the nasty ball of thorns he pronounced, "Ya CAIN'T be to carefull en na Desert! They's moe pricks here than Saturday night en a New Yalk subway!". That old cowboy was RIGHT! And ,God rest his soul, he gave me a great gift that day, because every time I think back to it my heart grows a little lighter and brighter!
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This is an immature Saguaro located near Bagdad, Arizona. Sedona, (my daughter) and Hawk, (the dog) are next to the cactus to show how tall it is. Sedona is about 5'10" tall. This Saguaro is about 20 to 30 years old. This photo was taken in mid march about 2 days after a heavy rain. In the lower right corner of the photo is an example of a Jojoba bush. Click on the photo to view a full sized version.
This is the same picture as the one at the top of this page. This Saguaro has several arms and probably weighs 8 or 10 tons and is probably more than 200 years old. A Saguaro weighs so much because it contans a lot of water. Sedona and Hawk are the nest to this cactus so you can get an idea of it's size. This Saguaro is about 75 feet from the young one above. Most of these pictures were taken shortly after a rain and the Desert is about as green as it gets.
This is a close up of the thorns and accordian like pleating of the side of Saguaros. When it rains in the Sonoran Desert the Saguaro cactus quickly draws it up and the pleats expand, the rows of thorns get farther apart. Then when the dry spell hits the cactus slowly uses the water and the pleats grow tighter, the rows of thorns get closer together. Notice how the thorns are straight. The Barrel Cactus looks like an immature Saguaro and one way to tell them apart is the Barrel Cactus has thorns that are hooked on the end sort of like a slightly straightened out fish hook.
This is a close up photo of the top of a Saguaro Cactus called a "crown". I think the way it all comes together is kind of interesting. The crown of the Saguaro is where it grows. If the crown is damaged in some way the plant will either be deformed or not grow. Those thorns are about 3 inches long.
There are several different species of prickley pear cactus. This one has very short thorns and tends to grow short. It also has a greyish tint to the color of it's "skin?". This one was growing withing 50 feet of others that had long thorns and a much greener "bark?". Don't be fooled by the size of the thorn! They all have microscopic barbs that point backwards. When they come in contact with the moisture of a body they expand and lodge in the flesh working themselves deeper. Because they are small they are very difficult to remove. OOOWWW!
This Prickley Pear Cactus has pretty respectable thorns. It's kind of bulging from the rains that fell a few days before I took this picture. This type of Prickley Pear Cactus grows to about 4 feet high and I've seen it about 6 feet across. The leaves or more properly "pads" are flat and about 6 to 8 inches across. The pads try to orient themselves vertically, I suspect to avoid sunlight in the summer when the sun is directly overhead while gathering the life giving warmth in the winter when the night time temperature can slide well below freezing.
Sedona is pointing to a small Prickley Pear in this photo while Hawk dies of boredom waiting. The little clump of cactus in this picture is a Hedgehog cactus. It looks like Sedona is touching this cactus, but it's just an optical illusion. Also, in case you're worrying about old Hawk getting into the cactus don't. You couldn't push him into it! Like us he's already gotten poked a few times and that's all it takes to convince almost any animal to stay away!
Here Sedona is pointing to a Hedgehog cactus. This is how we usually tell Hawk that there's a good tasting tidbit there, but Hawk makes it clear he isn't interested in ANYTHING lost inside a cactus!
The Hedgehog cactus flower is probably the most photographed of cactus flowers. Many people say it's the most beautiful of all the cactus flowers. It is beautiful, but the MOST beautiful? I really think that all the cactus flowers have an equal almost waxy beauty!
This cactus has a very BAD reputation, and it's WELL DESERVED! I've read and heard of stories wherein this cactus jumped onto unwary people that just walked by. NOT TRUE! The truth is that the joints of the cactus are very loosly attached and it doesn't take much for a ripe one to come off. When you see one of these there are smaller windblown balls of cactus in a circle of about 8 to 10ft diameter making it appear as though the cactus had thrown them that far. They are round and very light and are easily windblown. If you happen to brush lightly against them the entire joint adhears themselves to you via their beyond needle sharp thorns which are so sharp and fine that they don't hurt immediatly and after you've taken a coupla steps then aawwwoooo! That cactus just shot this ball of thorns at me!
This species of cactus is also probably the most painful kind to get stuck by in Arizona! It's thorns are covered with an irritant and causes some major pain after a few seconds. When you add in the factor that it also has many more thorns per square inch than most other types of cactus then ooowwww!
When you're out in the desert and you happen to come across one of these cactus then move slowly and carefully. The thorns become roots when they come into contact with the ground and they start a clone of the original cactus. They also flower and produce seeds. I once came across a guy who had bought land out in the desert and was digging a bunch of thewe cactus up. He left them there to die, but they didn't. Instead all the little joints that he knocked off started growing and so did the cactus he dug up! They just grew more roots where they touched the ground and kept going. Didn't even seem to get a little sick. He had the best crop of cactus I ever saw! A common hair comb works real well to remove a ball of this kind of cactus. They tend to roll along flesh if you just try to brush them off with say, a stick. The next best thing to use is two sticks, in the manner of chop sticks. Even when the ball is gone you're left to deal with individual thorns. What a PAIN! I'm bald, but I by golly carry a comb when I'm in cholla country!
Sedona has found a Cactus Wren's nest in this Staghorn Cactus. Hawk don't care! He's ready to head for the car.
The Staghorn flower. I really like the almost fake, waxy beauty. It always amazes me that something so rugged, so mennacing can produce something so delicate and beautiful! It really explains how my daughters and son can be so good lookin, and I look like . . . wweellll.
In this photo you can see a Staghorn in the foreground and a Jumping Cholla in the background.
There are many other kinds of cactus in Arizona and as I get more photos and information I'll post it all here! So, check back once in a while!
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