Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guardians of the desert…


The saguaro stands like a sentry over the desert landscape.  Easily the tallest living thing within eyeshot, this magnificent cactus seems like the guardian of the Sonora Desert.  Across the mountaintops, there are rows and rows standing…some with outstretched arms, some like tall single posts.  Each one seems to project a personality of its own.

Beginning its life in the shelter of a "nurse" tree or shrub that provides a shaded and moister habitat for the cactus’ germination, the saguaro grows very slowly to a height of 15 to 50 feet. The largest plants are estimated to be about 200 years old.

These desert giants are worlds unto themselves and have harmonious relationships with the bats who consume the nectar they produce and the many creatures who consume the cactus’ fruit.  Birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles use the saguaro like a condo unit. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers drill out cavities in the saguaro to build their nests. When the flickers and woodpeckers abandon the cactus, the cavities are used by other birds, including elf owls.  Saguaros are havens for creatures needing shelter in the desert.

The first time we went to the Saguaro National Forest in Arizona a few years back, I fell in love with saguaros.  They are endlessly fascinating…the perfect example of adaptation in a harsh environment and a wonderful example of symbiosis in nature.  This time, while we were driving along the Apache Trail Loop and stopped to walk around, I carefully fixed my hand sideways between the ribs of the young saguaro growing near the road and felt its cool leathery smoothness and hoped with all my heart that we humans are smart enough to do nothing to destroy these special beings.

The saguaro with its "nurse."




9 comments:

Mexóba said...

Very nice photographs! we love cactus!, is a very great place! excuse me for my english is not good, but you know that for us, your work is amazing! greetings!
www.fotosparadisfrutar.blogspot.com

texwisgirl said...

those are great shots!!! love 'em!

Stratoz said...

amazing photos and thanks for reminding me about those woodpeckers

texwisgirl said...

okay - you've got to go see this blog today. it opened and i immediately thought of you...

http://simplythisnow.blogspot.com/2011/04/watching.html

magda said...

Oooo Barbara,
Great photos and great flower !!!
Thank you!
Greetings

Tammy said...

Wow...These are great. I love them all, but if I had to choose a favorite it would be that last shot. Awesome!

barbara l. hale said...

Thanks so much for your comments! And thanks texwisgirl for directing me to that blog. What great pics she has!!

Diane AZ said...

Hi Barb, I love your saguaro pictures! I agree that each saguaro looks like it has its own unique personality. :)

VaishVijay said...

Angle of the 2nd pic (closeup of the cactus)is fantastic!