The second stop on our January Journey was Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona. The park is located outside Tucson, and has two sections: west and east. Over the course of two days, we visited both.
The primary attraction is the saguaro cactus, which only grows in the Sonoran Desert.
As you might expect with plants in a desert environment, saguaro cacti grow very slowly -- they may take 20 to 50 years to reach a height of 3-4 feet -- and have a life span of 150 to 200 years. They can grow as tall as 40 feet or more. The tallest saguaro ever measured was 78 feet high.
Saguaro cacti have become an iconic symbol of the southwest United States, even though they do not grow in Texas, New Mexico, or Utah. They are very photogenic, which is what brought us to the park, especially in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
One of the obvious features of the saguaro cactus is its arms. Arms develop to increase the plant's reproductive capability, as they create more flowers and fruit. A cactus's first arm may appear at 75 to 100 years of age; some saguaros never develop any arms at all.
It was fun to look for plants with strange-looking arm shapes:
Some cacti have only a few arms . . .
Others have a lot . . .
And sometimes the arms become so heavy they break:
You can see parts of the internal structure of the cactus in the photo above -- particularly the "ribs" of wood that are as long as the cactus itself.
Here's a dead saguaro where the outer layers have disappeared, leaving only the skeleton:
In addition to looking for weird arm structure, I enjoyed making close-up images of visually interesting parts of the plants:
And back-lit plants provided additional photo opportunities:
In addition to the saguaro cacti, the park is home to many other varieties of cactus, including the familiar prickly pear,
This variety is called golden barrel for obvious reasons:
One variety of cholla, called "teddy bear," looks cute . . .
but it's particularly nasty because the spines snag your shoes or clothing and break off pieces of the cactus with just the slightest tug.
To see just how nasty these things are, click here for a short video. Relevant portion runs from 1:15 to 2:35.
I'm not one to miss a visually interesting photo op, so I couldn't resist the patterns on the overhead structure above the observation deck at the Visitor Center.
I also converted a few of my color cactus images to black-and-white to feature the textures:
Finally, of course, we couldn't leave without getting a sunburst shot:
If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photogrpahy website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.