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Carnegiea gigantea (Saguaro)
Flaigg, Norman G.

Carnegiea gigantea

Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Saguaro, Giant Saguaro

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Synonym(s): Carnegia gigantea, Cereus giganteus

USDA Symbol: cagi10

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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

34 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall, 2 feet thick.
Leaf: Yellow-Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Nocturnal, remaining open into next day.


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 Conditions

Water 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.


Use Wildlife: Flowers attract bees, bats and doves. Fruits attract many birds and mammals. Birds often nest in holes in the trunk.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Bibref 1140 - Cacti (1991) Clive Innes and Charles Glass
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.2 - Wildflower Network Operates in Louisiana, Wildflower Handbook Published, Researc...
Wildflower Newsletter 1990 VOL. 7, NO.4 - Research Update, Wild-Collecting Endangers Natives, Director's Report, Maryland ...
Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.5 - Plant Now for Spring Beauty, Director's Report, Wildflower Center Offers Educati...
Wildflower Newsletter 1995 VOL. 12, NO.3 - Explore the Big Bend With the Wildflower Center, Education Director\'s Report, T...
Wildflower Newsletter 1996 VOL. 13, NO.5 - Bats as Cacti Pollinators, Fall Foliage Hotlines, Creating Fall Foliage Leafprin...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Carnegiea gigantea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Carnegiea gigantea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Carnegiea gigantea


Record Modified: 2015-02-13
Research By: TWC Staff

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