What’s attacking the saguaro cacti?

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The iconic saguaro cactus – usually pictured with two uneven arms – is a favorite. In Arizona, we saw many that towered 20 to 40 feet tall.

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So while driving and hiking around Scottsdale and in Pinnacle Peak park, we were quite distressed to see cacti that looked like this.

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We assumed they were dying. We asked a park official at Pinnacle what was killing them. She said despite the holes and brown, rotten-looking bases, the suguaro are quite healthy.

The outer green covering on the saguaro is poisonous, but for some reason it doesn’t bother the desert pack rats. They are the culprits for the damage near the bottom, chewing away the outer layer.Ā  But the park official said the inner layer is very tough and even the pack rats can’t chew through it.

The holes often seen near the top are caused by woodpeckers. But after the hole is made, the saguaro forms a tough “scab” over it to protect the center.

We are happy these giant cacti will be around to delight Arizona visitors for a long time. And I do mean a long time – saguaro live for 100-150 years!

 

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