“One of These Things Is Not Like the Other”


Do you remember that song from Sesame Street, where they would show 3 things that were the same and one thing that was different?  Then you had to pick the thing that didn’t belong with the others?

I love watching Sesame Street with my younger sister and I always liked that song.

Well, I decided to borrow the song’s theme and apply it to the 4 pictures below to see if you can tell which one doesn’t belong.

In other words…..you are getting a “pop quiz”.

Are you ready?  Let’s get started….

Okay, which one of these doesn’t belong with the others?

Cardon cacti


Cardon cacti


Cardon cacti


Saguaro cactus


So, could you tell which one doesn’t belong?

Do you want a hint?

They are all cacti, but one is found in Baja Mexico, while the others are found in the Sonoran Desert.

Give up?

#3 doesn’t belong.

Why not?

Well, while it looks an awful lot like a Saguaro cactus (Saguaro carnegiea), it is actually a Cardon cactus (Pachycereus pringlei).

I admit, that it can be awfully hard to tell the difference to the casual observer unless you look carefully.  

Cardon on the left and a Saguaro on the right.

Cardon on the left and a Saguaro on the right.

Cardon cacti are the largest in the world and reach heights up to 70 ft. and can weigh 25 tons.  They are only found in Baja, Mexico and can live up to 300 years.

Cardon arms grow lower down then those of a Saguaro cactus and they do not have as many spines.

Also, if you look carefully, their ‘folds’ are deeper and wider then those of the Saguaro.  The color of the Cardon cactus is also a grayer color of green then the Saguaro.

Cardon cacti are available in cactus nurseries for those who want to grow them.

So next time you see a Saguaro cactus in a landscape setting; look closely, it may not be what you think.

How about you?  Have you ever seen a Cardon cactus before?  

October Craziness….Cactus, Spiders, Stormy Weather and a Mixed-up Bird

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
3 replies
  1. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    I love to try to figure out which ones in my neighborhood are cardons and which are saguaros. It sure helps if they have arms! I didn't realize some of the other differences. Thanks for the info Noelle!

  2. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    Hooray, I guessed right! #3 does look different, but I admit I am no cacti expert! I have visited the Sonoran desert and was mpressed with its exceptional beauty.

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