This beautiful Saguaro was one of the first cacti that greeted me on my walk.
The first skeleton I came across was from a Saguaro cactus; part of it still standing upright. You can see where top part of the skeleton has fallen to the ground.
Here it is close up. The decay is till present as you can see inside. The woody remains of the saguaro are called ‘ribs’ and are what supports the Saguaro cactus.
Above, is a photo of a Saguaro that had just fallen. You can easily see the ribs. Whenever a Saguaro cactus would fall in a landscape setting, we would move it to an out of the way area where it could decay. Then we would take the ribs and put them back into the landscape as a display. Saguaro ribs are considered a beautiful accent in the desert landscape and are prized by many.
Native Americans used Saguaro ‘ribs’ to build roofs, walls and even furniture. Another use was that they would make long poles that they used to knock off the Saguaro fruit, which is edible.
Saguaro are not the only types of cacti that leave behind skeletons….
Teddy Bear Cholla (above), also has an interesting skeleton.
Above, is a photo of a segment of Teddy Bear Cholla that is in the process of decaying. You can see the woody skeleton starting to show.
It is illegal to remove Saguaro and Cholla skeletons from the desert, unless you have permission from the owner. Specimens can sometimes be purchased at certain plant nurseries that specialize in cacti.
So do as I do…..enjoy them out in the desert and take lots of photos.
As I was walking along a desert nature trail, I came upon this unusual feature. To be honest, I was surprised by its presence. But then I got to thinking, don’t live things, or those things that were formerly alive belong in a garden?
What do you think it is? Need some clues? Here are the first ones:
I was once part of a beautiful semi-tropical forest near the equator…
My current location is quite a ways north of the equator, although I never left the land I origin from…
Volcanoes, wind, and water helped to create what I am today…
Much of my color comes from iron…
You can find me in many different areas of the world, (Denmark, Mexico, China, New Zealand, and Indonesia), my home has always been in the land that makes up Arizona…
Have you figured it out?
Here is the answer…
Over 200 million years ago, Arizona was close to the equator, and the climate was much more humid, hence the presence of a sub-tropical forest that the trees originated from, before being transformed into petrified wood.
I came upon these beautiful specimens while I was walking along the Nature Walk, which is located next to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. These specimens were brought here from the Petrified Forest National Park, which is in north-eastern Arizona in the Painted Desert.
More information about petrified wood and their origins can be found here at Petrified Forest National Park.
What comes to mind when you think of cactus?
Why is sun protection needed for the surface of cacti? The shade from the spines let the cactus lose water through the atmosphere. This helps keep the cactus temperature relatively low.
Another function that the spines serve is that they help certain species of cacti such as cholla to root and spread.
Spines of the Cholla are specialized to detach and attach onto anything that comes to close. There are tiny barbs at the tips which grab on to anything that gets too close. It almost appears as if they ‘jump’ off of the main cactus as they latch on the unlucky recipient.
As you walk through the desert, there are many opportunities to view some of the striking cacti and their unique shapes. What is not initially apparent, are the many examples of plants helping young cacti survive. However, if you look closely, it is all around you – desert shrubs and trees sheltering growing cacti from the harsh desert climate.
It is easy to walk by and not even notice the presence of the small cacti growing underneath nurse plants. Most of the year, the fishhook cactus (Mammillaria microcarpa), pictured above, are almost impossible to see. It is only in the spring when they are blooming that you can spot them.
For the smaller cacti species, bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) most often serves as the nurse plant. It also often serves as the first nurse plant for saguaro cacti.
So next time you have the opportunity to take a walk in the desert, look around….you will most likely see examples of this unique relationship of plants helping young cactus survive.
|Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)|
When people think of the Sonoran desert, hillsides studded with saguaro cactus and cholla often come to mind. But interspersed between the cactus, you will find the iconic palo verde trees with their beautiful green trunks and branches.
|‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’)|
Palo verde trees act as a “nurse plant” to young saguaro cacti by protecting them from the cold in the winter and from the intense sun in the summer. Beautiful, yellow flowers are the product in the spring.
Another species of palo verde that is prevalent in the landscape are called palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox), formerly (Cercidium praecox). They have a dusty green trunk and branches that twist and turn. Their cold hardiness range is around 15 to 20 degrees F.
In the Desert Southwest, we are blessed with two different blooming seasons – spring and again in fall.
While two bloom seasons is generally one more than many regions experience, roses don’t enjoy the heat of summer and go into summer dormancy. That means that they just exist and don’t grow or bloom significantly. Their leaves may show signs of sunburn.
However, once September arrives and the days begin to grow shorter and temperatures begin to cool, it is time to lightly prune your rose bushes, which will stimulate new growth.
Begin by pruning back 1/4 of the top growth, removing sunburned foliage and any flowers present.
As always, prune back to an outward facing bud at an angle of 45 degrees. Seal any pruning cuts larger than the diameter of a pencil with Elmer’s glue to prevent borers.
Fall is also time to fertilize roses in preparation for their fall bloom season. Apply an organic fertilizer formulated for roses. Afterward, be sure to water in well.
**For those that want to go the extra step, I would recommend soil amendments such as compost and manure in addition to rose fertilizer, which results in greater growth, lush foliage and blooms over the long term.
To do this, first make 4 – 5, six-inch deep holes around each rose, placing them at least 1 ft. from the center (I use the end of a broom handle for this). Then apply a mixture of aged steer manure and alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) and pour into each hole. Water in well.
The aged manure improves the soil structure and slowly releases nutrients. The alfalfa pellets release a type of alcohol as they break down that roses just love.
By lightly pruning and fertilizing in early fall, you’ll enjoy a fall filled with beautiful roses.
In the past, people have asked me how long does a saguaro cactus arm take to grow back. The commonly held belief is that it takes 100 years before they will develop an arm.
However, as with much plant information, this answer is not always correct, it actually takes less time for a saguaro cactus to grow its arm back in a landscape setting than it’s native habitat.
The most critical factor in determining the timing of when a saguaro will start to grow an arm is the availability of water. Put simply, the more water a saguaro receives, the more quickly it grows. In a landscape setting where irrigation is present, a saguaro will grow much more rapidly then they do in their natural desert habitat. Saguaro cacti that grow in southern Arizona (near Tucson) grow more quickly than those in the western areas of the Sonoran desert because there is more rainfall in southern Arizona.