The Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)The saguaro cactus (pronounced “sah-wah-roh”), is the icon of the American west. Images of these cacti are seen all through our lives as a symbol of the American Desert. A trip to the Sonoran Desert is not complete without a examining of one of these famous desert plants. These huge green columnar cactus have fascinated nearly every person who has seen one. To the local Tohono O’Odham people, the saguaro cactus are even more important. These giant cactus are not plants to the Tohono O’Odham, but a different type of humanity, and are viewed as respected members of the Tohono O’Odham Tribe.
While the saguaro cactus has become a symbol of the American West, the saguaro cactus will only grow in the Sonoran desert. As a desert indicator species, the range of the saguaro cactus is limited to southern Arizona. Saguaro cactus will grow from sea level to about 4000 feet in elevation. The farther north and higher in elevation you go, the saguaro cactus will restrict their growth to the warmer, south facing slopes. Saguaro cactus are plentiful within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Impressive “saguaro forests” can be seen along the Ajo Mountain Drive.