Interesting Saguaro Cactus Facts

One of Arizona’s most majestic, lovable desert cactus plants is the Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea. Being aware of the saguaro’s history and incredible internal design, it is an honor to walk close to the Giant Saguaro that is over 150 years old and standing tall.

Sonoran Desert cactus tall

Giant Saguaro Cactus of Arizona

These desert cacti are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age.

Saguaro Cactus can not tolerate freezing temperatures in the winter and this is what limits their range.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro FACTS:  Saguaros are a very slow growing cactus.  A 10 year old plant might only be 2 inches tall.

How tall can a Saguaro Cactus grow?  It can grow 40 to 60 feet tall.

Arizona Saguaro Giant Cactus

Saguaro Cactus on Mica Mountain

60 foot Saguaro Cactus plant

A Tall Saguaro Cactus

Below are Saguaro cacti at the bottom of Mica Mountain in Saguaro National Park.

Mica Mountain Saguaro National Park

Saguaro cactus roots are only 4-6 inches deep and travel out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep tap root that extends down into the ground.

A Saguaro Cactus can gather enough water through its remarkable root system, during a significant rain, to last a year!

holes in big cactus

Holes in Saguaro Cactus for birds nest

Why are there holes in the Saguaro Cactus?  The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.

Birds nesting in the Arizona Saguaro Cactus

Cactus Wrens are common birds that live in the holes (nests) of the Saguaro Cactus.

red fruit of cactus

Saguaro Cactus Flowers bloom, then turn to fruit

When a saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers.

white flower on cactus arizona

Saguaro cactus Bloom – Flower

A Saguaro can only be fertilized from a different cactus – cross pollination.  Only a few bloom each night awaiting to be pollinated and close by late morning.

pollinated cactus flower to fruit

red fruit on Saguaro Cactus

dead saguaro cactus ribs

A living and dead Saguaro Cactus.

Because the major part of a desert saguaro cactus is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh 6 tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs.

After the saguaro dies its wood ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture.  The holes that birds nested in are called saguaro boots.

holes in cactus in Arizona

Saguaro Boot used by Native American

Native Americans used saguaro boots as water containers.

200 year old tall saguaro cactus

Saguaro Cactus next to a biker to compare the size

Saguaro branches normally begin to appear when the cactus reaches 50 to 70 years of age.

The average life span of a saguaro is approximately 175 years of age.  Experts have estimated that a Saguaro Cactus with more than 5 arms can be 200 years old.

nurse tree for saguaro cactus

Yellow Palo Verde Tree is a nurse tree

Young saguaro cacti can be very hard to find because they grow under the protection of a “nurse tree”.  The nurse tree releases nitrogen in the soil which the Saguaros and other desert cacti use to grow healthy and strong.

Saguaros sometimes grow in odd shapes or forms. The growing tip of the cactus occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.

rare arizona cactus

Cristate Saguaro Cactus

These crested saguaro cacti, Carnegia gigantea forma cristata, are rare.  Biologists are not sure why these Saguaros grow this fan-like shape.

Fan like shaped cactus rare

Crested, Cristate, Fan-like Saguaro Cactus from AZ

crested cristate cactus in Tucson Phoenix

rare Saguaro in Tucson

Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of  The Arizona Saguaro Cactus. It is illegal to harm a Saguaro in Arizona. During building or construction, precautions must be taken to move every saguaro that may be affected.

Purple, Yellow, and Red Lantana are some of the best drought resistant plants

Lantana is the best heat resistant plant that can add a punch of color to any flower bed. Lantana flowers come in a variety of orange, white, pink, yellow, purple, red and bi-color options.

These hardy plants are native to tropical regions of Africa and here in the Americas.  Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the VERBENA family, Verbenaceae.

yellow and red flowers bush

Lantana mounds and shrubs with continuous flowers

Depending on where you live and the type grown, Lantana plants can be treated as annuals or perennials.

Verbena, Lantana, requires heat to do well, so plant them where they will get plenty of sunWell-drained soil is a must, as Lantana won’t tolerate wet roots.

yellow lantana to attract butterflies

yellow colors of Lantana plants

  • More nurseries seem to sell Lantana plants by color and not by name.
best drought and heat resistant plants

Lantana shrubs and mounds

Trailing are the more popular low-growing, spreading types of Lantana, VerbenaPurple trailing Lantana looks beautiful cascading over walls or in hanging baskets.

  • New Gold Lantana – has deep yellow flowers
perrenial flowering plant

Texas New Gold Lantana

  • Dallas Red or Texas Flame Lantana – has red, yellow and orange flowers
Irene species of Lantana plants

Red Orange Yellow Lantana species in the Verbena plant family

  • Lantana shrubs with pink and light yellow flowers is called Pinkies Lantana or Confetti.
plants to attract butterflies

pink and yellow Lantana

Can you grow Lantana in containers?  You bet!  Lantana does well in pots that are in a sunny location.

pink camara shrub lantana flowering

Lantana Camara Plant, called Confetti Lantana

Are you looking for low maintenance plants that are drought resistantLantana is a good choice that is worth a try!

color ideas for your garden

red and yellow flowering Lantana next to oleander bushes

Lantanas are planted in spring once the threat of frost has ended.  These flowering plants love warm temperatures so growth may be slow at first.

grow Lantana heat tolerant plants

Trailing Purple Lantana in containers

Do you want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your gardenLantana flowers are one of the best choices for attracting butterflies.

Heat resistant tolerant flowering plant

Flowering Purple Trailing Lantana

When should I water my Lantana, Verbena plants?  On average the ground Lantana need a good soaking twice a week. A good indicator is the leaves.

Lantana growing in containers may need to be watered more depending on the temperature.

flowering plants for borders

Very hardy Gold Lantana is great for borders

If your Lantana is wilting, then water it but try not to get water on the leaves.  The sun can burn Lantana leaves that have water on them.

The stems of your Lantana are HOLLOW so overwatering will cause your Lantana roots to rot.

Male and Female Mourning Doves work together to build their nest

It is spring and the male mourning dove labors hard to set up his territory.   When this male bird is ready to mate, he circles in a courtship flight and chases other doves from the area he desires to nest.

To attract a female mourning dove, this determined handsome bird perches in an open area and sings a “passionate” coo sound that is louder than his usual call.

difference of male and female doves

Male Mourning Dove

The Coooo bird call is mostly voiced by the male mourning dove and not the female. Once he has charmed a mate, the doves pair for life.

To hear the dove’s coooOOO sound, click on the short YouTube video below:

Doves mate primarily from spring to fall but are able to mate year round and produce several clutches of young each year.
Doves are tranquil and not to mention elegant birds.
 
Unfortunately, the Mourning Dove Nest can hardly be called a “nest” – generally these beautiful birds just throw a few twigs somewhere and begin setting up their flimsy nest.
tan bird with spots

dove nest on our porch

The nest is constructed over the course of 2-4 days with the male and female mourning doves working together.

bird nest with 2 eggs

mourning dove nest with 2 white eggs

With a hanging basket on our porch, it didn’t take long before a couple of mourning doves took up residence and built a nest in the middle.

Mourning doves have been known to reuse the same nest over and over. Commonly raising 2 – 3 broods per season.

Researchers found that the basics for constructing the bird nest are mainly instinctive, but birds can improve their skills with experience.

flimsy bird nest with twigs and white eggs

when do the 2 dove eggs hatch?

So, you spotted a dove’s nest with two milky white eggs.  When will the dove eggs hatch?  The incubation period for Mourning Dove eggs is 14-15 days. Then another 2 weeks for the squabs to leave the nest.

One white egg is laid in the evening, and the female dove lays the second egg in the morning.

dove bird nest two eggs

Mourning Dove’s Nest with 2 white eggs

The day shift is handled by the male mourning dove and the female incubates during the night shift.  If you do not see the doves change shifts, it can seem that the same dove has been on the nest the entire time. 

***In our experience, we have seen the male and female doves change places around sunrise and sunset.

The dove chick, hatchling, squab pictured below is one day old.  Both eyes on the newborn bird are closed.

one day old baby bird

a newborn baby dove is called a squab

two baby birds in a nest

2 to 3 day old dove newborn

Males and female doves work together to feed their newborns crop milk or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. The dove’s Crop Milk is rich in fat and protein.  Adult mourning doves secrete the milk and regurgitate it to their little ones.

The dove parent opens its mouth wide permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

mourning dove in the nest

The Male dove daddy caring for his squab

How do you tell if the male or female dove is in the nest?

With a trained eye you will be able to tell the difference.  Male Mourning Doves have a bluish crown and nape, and a rose wash to the throat and breast.

The crown and nape of the female dove is grayish brown, and the throat and breast has a brownish or tan wash.

dove nest with 3 birds

female mourning dove with her squabs

Mourning Dove Nestlings will fledge in about 12-14 days. The bird parents continue to care for the dove fledglings for about another 16-20 days.

Please NOTE:   Doves are more flighty than many other birds and may abandon the eggs or nest if you bother them too much.