Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose
Saguaro, Giant Saguaro
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)
Synonym(s): Carnegia gigantea, Cereus giganteus
USDA Symbol: CAGI10
Saguaro grows to 50 ft. in height; its tremendous weight, up to nine tons, is supported by a skeleton of about two dozen spongy, wooden rods. Accordian pleats contract as they gain and lose moisture. White flowers open after nightfall and close by late afternoon the following day. Saguaro has fleshy red fruit. Giant, leafless, columnar tree cactus with massive, spiny trunk and usually 2-10 stout, nearly erect, spiny branches.
Native Americans made use of the entire cactus: they ate the fruit both fresh and dried and made it into preserves and beverages; the framework of ribs provided wood for shelters, fences, and kindling. Giant Saguaro (pronounced "sah-WAH-ro"), the largest native cactus, is the state flower of Arizona and a symbol of desert landscapes. Well-adapted to its hot, dry climate, Giant Saguaro is leafless. Food is manufactured in the green stems, and rainwater is absorbed quickly by the shallow roots and stored in the succulent trunks and branches. The thick, spreading spines offer protection against animals. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers make round holes near the tops of branches for nests that are used afterwards by elf owls, cactus wrens, and other birds. Wildlife, especially white-winged doves, consume quantities of the seeds.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall, 2 feet thick.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Nocturnal, remaining open into next day.
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA
Native Distribution: In AZ – Yavapai & Mohave to Graham, Santa Cruz, Pine & Yuma Cos.; local in adjacent CA & Mex.
Native Habitat: Rocky foothills; canyons; washes; sandy or gravelly desert plains
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Sandy or gravelly, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Saguaro cacti are protected by law and require government tags for purchase or transport. These are very slow-growing plants that live up to 250 years. The fleshy fruit is edible.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Flowers attract bees, bats and doves. Fruits attract many birds and mammals. Birds often nest in holes in the trunk.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
BibliographyBibref 1140 - Cacti (1991) Clive Innes and Charles Glass
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Carnegiea gigantea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Carnegiea gigantea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Carnegiea gigantea
MetadataRecord Modified: 2015-02-13
Research By: TWC Staff