Why saguaros have pleats
Because the majority of a saguaro 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. The number of ribs inside the plant correspond to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant. As the saguaro grows, the ribs will occasionally fork and the corresponding pleat will also fork at the same place.
Sometimes saguaros have the chance to soak up a larger than usual amount of water - such as after a large summer rainstorm. The ground can become very soft after such a storm and with the added weight of the new water, the heavy cactus sometimes fall over or lose an arm.
Layers of a saguaro:
epidermis (green part)
cortex or pulp
ribs (with corresponding pleat on surface)
pith (inside the ribs)
Did You Know?
The saguaro blossom is the state flower of Arizona. In early summer, the Tohono O’odham people come to Saguaro National Park to harvest the saguaro fruit.