Tag Archive for: Fallen Saguaro

giant Saguaro

Saguaros can be affected by high winds and heavy rain just as trees are.  During windy weather, I love to observe saguaros swaying gently in the breeze.  In the summertime in Arizona, we have a monsoon season.  The word “monsoon” means “wind shift” or “season”.  This shift in the wind brings warm, moist air from Mexico which causes brief, intense storms.  Heavy rain, lightning, and high winds are a common occurrence during this time.  Sadly, this saguaro, (above), did not survive the latest monsoon storm of that summer.

giant Saguaro

This large giant fell in a landscape area in the community where I worked as a horticulturist.  This was one of my favorite saguaro cacti.  There had been a few consecutive days of heavy rain and wind, which caused this beautiful saguaro to fall.

*To get an idea of how large this saguaro was, the man walking in front of it is over 6 ft. tall.

There were two other casualties besides the saguaro cactus itself.  As many of you may know, some types of birds make their homes in saguaros.  This particular saguaro was home to a Cactus Wren and her babies. 

giant Saguaro
giant Saguaro

When many people think of the Desert Southwest, the iconic Saguaro cactus comes to mind.  I remember seeing my first saguaro, crossing over the California Arizona border.  When I first saw them, it was hard to believe that they were real.  They were so strange looking to my eyes.

Saguaro cactus

Throughout my career as a horticulturist, I have had many interactions with these beautiful cacti.  Most of them were quite wonderful really, but there were some that were not so much fun…..

One incident was quite painful.  I remember a time when we were creating pathways for a potential botanical walk when I spotted a small saguaro  (8 inches tall) that was directly in the path, so I had it dug up in order to place it elsewhere.  Well, I pricked my thumb on one of the spines, but I didn’t think anything of it because I frequently stuck myself with other types of cacti and agave.

Well my thumb began to swell….and swell.  It got to the point 3 days later that I could not use my hand, so I had to go to the doctor for some antibiotics, which took care of the problem.  Spines oftentimes have bacteria on the tips which can cause problems if you get stuck.

Another incident was quite painful as well, but not physically.  This involved one of my favorite saguaros  that was located in a large feature area alongside the golf course where I worked.  I had transformed this landscape area into a hummingbird garden.  The saguaro was huge and had many arms growing from it.   

hummingbird garden

This photo was taken when we had just finished adding the plants in our hummingbird garden.

A few years later, as I was driving to work on a gorgeous summer morning, little did I know that my beautiful saguaro had fallen victim to the torrential rain and high winds we had experienced the night before.  

beautiful saguaro

As soon as I had arrived at work, my crew told me what had happened and I drove my little golf cart out there as fast as possible.  

It was such a sad sight.  I literally felt sick to my stomach.  To get a sense of how large it was, my co-worker who is pictured above is about 6′ 4″ tall.

As I got up close to examine it, I saw something else that was also quite sad….

Saguaro cactus

A tiny baby Cactus Wren had also fallen victim.  The force of the falling saguaro dislodged him from his nesting hole.  His mother was close by and had also died.

The last incident that I would like to share with you also happened around the time of the fallen saguaro.

I was driving around the golf courses, checking on landscape areas and the many trees that we had growing on the courses.  This was part of my daily routine.  

There were beautiful homes and landscapes that backed up to the golf courses.  As I was passing one of the homes, I noticed something up in the top reaches of their stately saguaro that was not a welcome sight.

Did you know that saguaros can get sick?

Saguaro cactus

Okay, it may not be obvious, but look closely towards the top.  Do you see two brown/black spots with liquid seeping out?

Here was a classic example of bacterial necrosis (Erwinia carnegieana).  

The ‘black goo’ that is excreted smells absolutely awful.  You may be wondering how it spreads.  Well, insects and small animals are the primary way that it is spread.  They visit an infected cactus and then fly to your cacti, spreading the bacteria.  

So, can you leave it alone and hope it will go away?  Well, there is a chance that the saguaro itself can seal off the infection by forming a special kind of tissue known as ‘callus’.

But this is not always successful and if the bacterial necrosis spreads, it will lead to the death of your saguaro, causing it to fall, which can also cause damage to those things that are in its path.

So what can you do?

Well, if the infection is where you can reach it, you can cut out the infected area.  Using a sharp knife, begin cutting out all black, gooey areas, taking care to sterilize your knife after each cut using rubbing alcohol.

You need to remove all diseased cactus flesh and cut into at least a 1/2″ of healthy saguaro tissue.  To make sure that water cannot accumulate in the area, use a spoon to gently slope the bottom of the hole.  Make sure that the walls of the now enlarged hole are smooth with no puncture marks.

The last step involves spraying the entire, excavated area with a 10% bleach mixture (9 parts water to 1 part chlorine bleach).  This should kill any remaining bacterial.

Another option is that you can call a cactus professional and have them treat the infection.

For more information you can click here.  About halfway down the page, you will find excellent information on bacterial necrosis.

I am happy to say that there is a happy ending to this last saguaro incident…..the homeowners had it treated and it is still alive and thriving 8 years later 🙂

Yesterday, my husband I dropped off the kids at school and then went on a hike around the beautiful Superstition Mountains, located just outside of the greater Phoenix metro area.

beautiful Superstition Mountains

Superstition Mountains

You could see saguaro cacti growing up out of the rocky mountainsides.

Did you know that saguaro cacti favor the south side of mountains?  Look carefully and you will seen a huge difference when comparing with the amount of saguaro on the north sides of mountains.  The reason for this is that it is warmer on the south side of mountains and they receive more sunlight which the saguaro favor.

beautiful Superstition Mountains

Superstition Mountains

beautiful Superstition Mountains

Green grass surrounds the remains of a Mesquite tree.  The floor of the desert rapidly turns green as grass grows in response to the rain.

Desert After The Rain

The rushing water from the creek could be heard everywhere we walked.  We had to cross over it 3 different times.  Unfortunately, I lost my balance and stepped into the water and came out with a wet sock and hiking boot ;^)

Desert After The Rain

The remains of an old Saguaro cactus.

Desert After The Rain

Who says that the desert is brown and ugly?  We had a wonderful day of hiking and the weather was just beautiful.  

One of My Favorite Things…..Hiking the Superstition Mountains