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The Saguaro National Park

In Saguaro National Park a diversity of desert plant and animal communities thrive, from the hot, dry desert lowlands to the cooler, moister mountain peaks. More than 2,700 plant species, including 50 varieties of cactus, make their home in Saguaro National Park. But the park's most prominent feature is the boundless variety of unique and majestic Saguaro cactus, which grows nowhere in the world except the Sonoran Desert. The Tucson Basin provides ideal conditions for sustaining dense stands of Saguaro.

The Saguaro has been described as the monarch of the Sonoran Desert, as a prickly horror, as the supreme symbol of the American Southwest, and as a plant with personality. It is renowned for the variety of odd, all-too-human shapes it assumes, shapes that inspire wild and fanciful imaginings. Like all cacti, the Saguaro grows extremely slowly. The largest ones are up to 40 feet tall and more than 150 years old. Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Monument. Preserved along with it are many of the other members of the Sonoran Desert community -- the other cacti, the desert trees and shrubs, and the animals. In lushness and variety of life, the Sonoran Desert far surpasses all other North American deserts. And yet, paradoxically, it is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent.