“One of These Things Is Not Like the Other”


Engaging With Cardon Cacti: Can You Spot the Odd One Out Among These Unique Cacti?

Do you recall that catchy tune from Sesame Street, where they showcased three similar things and one that stood out? Your task was to spot the odd one among them.

I have fond memories of enjoying Sesame Street with my younger sister, and that song always brought a smile to my face. Inspired by it, I’ve decided to borrow the theme and apply it to the four images below. Can you identify which one doesn’t quite fit in?

In essence, you’re about to embark on a delightful “pop quiz.” Are you prepared? Let’s dive right in.

Alright, take a close look at these images and tell me, which one seems out of place among these stunning Cardon cacti?

Cardon cacti


Cardon cacti


Cardon cacti


Saguaro cactus


So, in the images above, can you tell which one doesn’t belong?

Do you want a hint to our pop quiz?

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?

Cardon Cactus are Different than Saguaro Cactus

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.

The Magnificent Cardon Cacti: Giants of Baja, Mexico

Cardon cacti, renowned as the world’s largest cacti, can astonishingly reach towering heights of up to 70 feet and weigh a staggering 25 tons. These remarkable giants are an exclusive inhabitant of Baja, Mexico, where they thrive for up to an astounding 300 years.

Exploring the Unique Features of Cardon Cacti

What sets Cardon cacti apart are their distinctive characteristics. Unlike the Saguaro cactus, their arms extend from a lower position, adorned with fewer spines. But if you examine them closely, you’ll notice that their folds are deeper and wider compared to the Saguaro. Moreover, the Cardon cactus boasts a subtly grayer shade of green, distinguishing it from its Saguaro cousin.

For enthusiasts who wish to cultivate these majestic cacti, Cardon cacti are readily available at cactus nurseries. So, the next time you encounter a Saguaro cactus in a landscaped setting, take a closer look—it might turn out to be a Cardon cactus, surprising you with its unique charm.

Have you ever had the pleasure of encountering a Cardon cactus in person? Share your experiences with us!

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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