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Crested Saguaro's


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That is called "crissate" growth. Many cactus do this. Horizontal growth instead of vertical. A genetic mutation I think.

The first set of photos is actually a twinned crown. It is from damage to the whorl right in the center of the crown. Sometimes a freeze or bugs will do that and twin the heads out on a whole hillside. The second set of photos is a "chrissate" or crested cactus showing horizontal growth.

Our cholla (opuntia) in the Chihuahuan highlands do this sometimes. They will grow a big "beavertail".

I have a big Myrtillocactus that grows horizontally and is the strangest looking thing you have ever seen.

Is that a saguaro or a cardon grande? Looks like a pachycereus pringleii to me. Cardon grande. At least the one in the second photo set. Tough to tell for sure but that is what I am thinkin'.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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Not terribly common, Steve.

I have a pic around here somewhere of a Saguaro that has arms growing up toward a crest of about 6 arms going down. The dang thing is 25' tall if it's an inch.

I still see it if I go out to the Florence Junction trails.

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It is a common condition in cactus, but probably not so common in saguaros and cardon grandes. You see it a lot in certain species.

You can have a couple of different variations of abnormal growth in cactus. Horizontal growth and staggered growth. Horizontal growth makes a "crest" on the top of a normally growing cactus. Staggered growth or Intermittent phyllotaxy creates a "monstrose" cactus...The ribs that are generally all continuous are stagggered and confused looking. You see both abnormalities in your local greenhouse. The cereus peruvianus is famous for its "monstrose" tendencies and the blue myrtillocactus is famous for its cresting.

The strange cactus in the left background in the photo I posted is a mostrose cereus peruvianus. A great example of abnormal phyllotaxy. I also posted some photos of it blooming for Johnno and Kat's gala wedding event if you are interested in looking at them again.

Prickly pears or nopal get the intermittent phyllotaxy sometimes. You will see a "pad" growing and then half way up it will turn at right angles to itself. Or sometimes a pad will have another pad growing out at a right angle to it. It is probably the best example of intermittent phyllotaxy in the wild. You can easily identify this growth if you take a close look at the nopal cactus around you.

A prickly pear or nopal cactus and a cholla are the same genus and both have the tendencies for abnormalities. If you think about it a cholla is simply a prickly pear cactus that has intermittent phyllotaxy really bad and started growing vertically.

The cholla will sometimes start that crested growth if it gets burned. In a bad drought they roast the thorns off cholla with a propane burner and let the cattle eat them out on the eastern highlands. These damaged cactus will often regenerate and be crested into a beavertail looking cactus with bizzare ridges and patterns.

Years ago there was a fishook barrel cactus near Las Cruces that was growing flat against the ground and was about three feet in diameter. It looked like a big alien turtle with curved spines on its back. It grew from a crest down the center. It really looked like an animal more than a plant. Unless you saw the hooked spines you would never suspect it was a barrel cactus. It was almost creepy looking...Like a sea creature!

No doubt that many of the spirits and beings of native legend were crested or abnormal cactus. There certainly are some mind boggling shapes out there when the standard geometry of the plant gets shaken up.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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  • 2 weeks later...

You know, it's not just the pictures and information about gold that make this site so cool, but it's also all about the great outdoors, and in some ways living a life-style that only the pioneers may have known. The stories, photographs, information and spirit of adventure here will keep me coming back every day.


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Good point Ant Man, I think that is one reason so many other forums are dead...they just refuse to veer off the path. You either post photo's of some nuggets or you don't post at all, and you certainly don't dare post anything not related to gold. But knowing that not all prospectors have access to prospect everyday it's always cool to be able to run the gamut from the out doors to politics. We got six pages alone, on Johnno fixing his car and it's entertaining...funny...you learn a little along the way...you can't beat this place.

Edited by Bucket
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  • 6 months later...

Tooo many being stolen from the desert for landscaping. When visiting X-relatives in Phoenix their friends were boasting about their night raids and hauling cactus off by the hundreds. Bummer as takes a zillion years to grow,propigate and bloom.......thanx much for the pics and variety is indeed the spice a life,now ifn' I could just find a lady who believed so also....John

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Actually they grow fast and can be rooted from a cutting in a couple of months. No need to dig anything up or damage the parent cactus.

Many of the photos here are NOT saguaros. They are cardon grande. Either way you can simply cut off an arm, let it callous over for a few weeks and then root it in dry soil. No problems at al as long as you don't get it wet before the root nubs appear.

If you try to dig those big rascals it shocks them and they often get rot or slow way down. Cuttings rarely fail if you do them right and grow faster than transplants.

I have been. growing cactus for three decades and have rooted a hundred cardon grande with very few failures. In your wet desert it is best to cut them in winter and let them dry out and get roots before the monsoons. If you cut them in summer just put the scion in a dry shady spot up off the ground for six months and plant them in dry sand about Feb or March. You will see growth beforr the rains come.

Cactus are easy to propogate and the mother plant is generally very happy about it.

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It's clear, I'm no expert. But these apear closer to Saguaro's than Cardon Grande's.

Bob is right cacti are super easy to grow from cuttings. I have also had great luck transplanting all types of cati including saguaro's. I read that they like to stay oriented in relation to North when you do transplant them. Something to do with how the skin deals with the sun.

Seems like 1/2 of my yard cactus trimmings that end up in the compost pile. Start growing on their own, if I don't get it turned right away.

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My Father was a Official Photographer for the Sonoran Desert Museum just outside Tucson. I've spent Hour and Hours there.

One of the most funny things I remember was they sold Saguaro Cactus Seeds. It can take up to Ten Years for one to sprout under the Good Conditions. Everyone over waters Cactus. It can take 50 Years for one to get up to the 2 or 3ft level. These things are like the Red Woods of the Desert.


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All Cactus are not created Equal. Some are slow and Hard to Grow. Nasty stuff like Cholla just Go Ping. Prickly Pear can go out of hand in one or two years.

My mom made a Fence out to some one time. She Planted some Cholla around the Back Yard. A kid of Ethnic Color tried (Not Mexican) getting in the back window. My Irish Setter sent him backwards and he ran right into the Cholla. It took the EMT's a hour to get him out.

He Spent 7 days in the hospital. No Charges was Lodged.

Never Did See him again. No Place in Tucson. He was lucky he still had Eyes.

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