The Enigmatic Glory of America’s Towering Saguaro Cacti

Discover the colossal crested cacti that can be found in America. Dive into the reasons behind why cacti can grow to such enormous sizes. You might have come across those saguaro cacti with tops that resemble a sequence of fists, as if they encountered a growth spurt and hit an invisible ceiling, resulting in a comical splat. If you’re one of the lucky few who have caught a glimpse of a rare crested saguaro, you’ll know it’s a mysterious, top-heavy brute with no scientifically proven explanation. To provide some context, saguaros are indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, a little-known fact that isn’t always considered by filmmakers who feature saguaros in movies set in saguaro-less regions like Texas or New Mexico.

Do you know how long it takes a saguaro cactus to grow? Well, let me tell you, they definitely take their time. In fact, it takes them a whole decade just to grow one inch in height! But don’t be fooled by their slow start, because once they hit the 10-year mark, it’s full speed ahead. Over the next 80 years, these cacti can grow to be a whopping 15-16 feet tall!

During their growth spurt, saguaros tend to grow straight up, until they reach a stage between 50 and 70 years old when they start growing their iconic arms. However, contrary to popular belief, these arms don’t typically grow in a symmetrical, “hands up” formation like we see in cartoons. Instead, saguaros usually sprout several arms that twist and turn in various directions. This unique arrangement gives each cactus its own distinctive appearance.

Have you seen the rare and fascinating crested saguaro? While there are tens of thousands of cactuses in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, only about 25 of these unique saguaros have been spotted within its boundaries. Scientists haven’t yet definitively determined what causes these prickly fan-shaped growths on the saguaro, but some theories include genetic mutations, deep freezes, or lightning strikes. In fact, researchers at Arizona State University have even created a garden of crested cactuses using intentional genetic mutations. But rather than trying to explain this phenomenon, why not just enjoy it? If you’re lucky enough to spot a crested saguaro, snap a picture and share it on Instagram!

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