Crested Saguaro Pilgrimage

December 26, 2011

Dan found this wonderful crested saguaro cactus a few days ago, so we visited it today for more photos.  Crested cacti are rare but some areas tend to have more than others.  We have found crested cacti of several species, including saguaros, Arizona barrels, chainfruit chollas, and several of the small cacti.  There are a few well-known crested saguaros along public hiking trails, roadsides, and in botanical gardens or private yards, but of course there are many more that grow in remote parts of the desert and are rarely seen or photographed.  This is one of them, accessible only by 4WD and a hike (or a really long hike from the main road).

A Crested Saguaro

A Crested Saguaro

It has small arms growing from the crested portion of the main trunk.  This is unusual but not unheard of.  The three large arms are also partly crested at the tips (most obvious on the arm on the left).  The tiny knob poking up where the left arm joins the trunk is a tiny prickly pear plant.  This is not a parasite.  The seeds often sprout in water-gathering hollows on old saguaros, but they never grow very big since there is no soil for their developing roots.

Crested Saguaro Top

Crested Saguaro Top

Here’s a closer view of the crest in the late afternoon winter light.  The center of the crest looks brown and dead; this may be damage from last winter’s big freeze.  As is typical for old saguaros, this one is full of holes made by gila woodpeckers.  Other species of opportunistic birds and insects make use of these holes; in the area where this plant is growing, the most common tenants (though only in summer) are colonies of purple martins.  At the far left in the photo you can see that one hole has attracted other inhabitants:  it’s a beehive, and the transparent yellowish thing that fills the hole is a honeycomb:

Honeycomb in a Saguaro

Honeycomb in a Saguaro

We didn’t see any bees, but it might have been too cold for them to fly much.  The comb looks like it was made this year and doesn’t show any signs of weathering or decay, so I assume it’s an active hive.  Anyway, it was an extra treat to see this on such a special plant.

Advertisements

One Response to “Crested Saguaro Pilgrimage”

  1. Wow! thank you for sharing, you live in such an incredible spot on the planet & I love all your detailed observations!

Comments are closed.