Cactus Patch Trail booklet

Your Assignment

First, enjoy the tour to the ancient ruins. Explore the village and pretend you are living here in ancient times. Try to imagine life here 700 years ago.

When you return from the ruins, you will come to the Cactus Patch Trail. Take this trail to begin your Junior Ranger Assignment.

Your goal is to find answers to questions in this book. To do that, read the trail signs carefully, because they will have answers for you.

CAUTION: Cacti have thousands of sharp ways to defend themselves. Be careful not to touch them! The desert environment is always active, so please stay on the Trail.


Cactus can store water and are well protected by their sharp spines. To help keep cactus cool, the spines also provide __________ during the long, hot summer season.

Found in many different shapes and sizes, cacti provide food and homes for different birds and insects.

Desert plants were used by the prehistoric Indians and still used today by many Native Americans.


This plant is easily identified by its sharp, curved thorns which resemble a "cat’s claw". The fuzzy yellow flowers turn into an edible seedpod which was used to make a food called __________.


From the agave leaf fibers, Indians made rope, sandals, and baskets. The seeds, as well as the pulp from the stalk, can be eaten. The sharp points at the end of each leaf were used as sewing needles by Indians. The agave is often called the "century plant". How old can an adult agave plant be? Answer: __________


This giant cactus gives us Arizona’s state flower. The saguaro can live to be 200 years old and grow to a height of 40 feet.

Birds peck the holes in the saguaro. The injured area heals itself, creating a home for insects, birds, and mammals.

Indians made syrup, candy and jam from the sweet red fruit of the saguaro. They also used the wooden ribs of the saguaro skeleton for roof building, tool making, and firewood.

What bird is responsible for the holes in the giant saguaro cactus? Answer: __________ __________


Prickly pear cactus can stand both cold and hot weather and can be found in all but three of the states. The sweet red fruit is popular with fox, black bear, rodents, and birds.

Native American Indians harvest the fruit and make syrup, jam, and candy. The thorn covered pads can be fried and eaten and the sticky pulp from inside the pad can be used to help cure scorpion and wasp stings.

The fruit on the prickly pear cactus has a name that reminds us of a type of fish. What is its name? Answer: __________

What animal eats the thorn-covered pads of the prickly pear? Answer: __________


The spine-covered pods of the chain fruit cholla should be given plenty of room. The joints break off easily and will stick to your skin at the slightest touch.

The flower buds of the cholla can be roasted and eaten after the thorns are removed. They are high in vitamin A and taste like asparagus.

Birds build nests in the cholla, protecting themselves and their eggs from predators.

Woodrats gather the spine-covered pods, pile them up, and make nests in the center of the mound.

What bird builds its nest in the cholla? (Hint) It’s Arizona’s state bird. Answer: __________ __________


Often mistaken for a young saguaro cactus, the barrel cactus only grows to about five feet tall. Unlike the saguaro’s straight spines, the spines on the barrel cactus are curved at the tip and look like fishhooks.

The barrel cactus is full of pulp fiber which holds large amounts of moisture. Despite their size and appearance, the barrel cactus can weigh hundreds of pounds.

Soldiers and explorers claimed they could survive in the desert by drinking the liquid from the barrel cactus. In truth, the pulp fiber is full of alkali which makes the liquid unfit to drink.

Because the barrel cactus leans to the south, in order to give its flowers all of the sun possible, explorers called this cactus the Answer: ____________________


Clustered together, hedgehog cacti often resemble a squad of small porcupines daring something to try and touch them. Their spines are long and stiff and discourage most animals from eating them.

Inside the hedgehog is a red juicy pulp rich in sugar and very sweet. Considered a delicacy by Southwest Indians, the hedgehog is eaten like candy after the spines are removed.

To the Southwest Indian, the hedgehog cactus serves as a seasonal calendar, indicating that winter is over and spring is near.

What does the hedgehog do that gives it this distinction? Answer: ____________________


The Christmas cactus is related to the cholla cactus. Smaller and not having as many spines as the other chollas, it appears to be a bush more than a cactus.

This small, slender-stemmed cholla produces fruit all along the stem. The fruit is about one inch long and ripens during the winter.

In what months do the Christmas cactus fruit ripen? Answer: __________


Buckhorn cholla is smaller and bushier than the chain fruit cholla.

It can be found growing down in the river basin and higher up in the mountains.

The cholla got its name "buckhorn" because the spiny limbs look like the _______________

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

26260 N AZ Hwy 188 Lot 2
Roosevelt, AZ 85545


(928) 467-2241
Please call if you have any question on Tonto National Monument or the cliff dwellings. Call to check availability and book a guided tour for the Upper Cliff Dwelling (November through April).

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