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Q&AZ: Why Don’t We See More Baby Saguaros?

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 10:28am
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 11:50am

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Supported by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

young saguaros
National Park Service
Young saguaros growing under the protection of mesquite "nurse tree."

For Arizona hikers, saguaro cacti are an essential part of a Sonoran Desert trek. But one listener said she sees far more young, "saguaro-like" cacti than true fledgling saguaros on her hikes and wanted to know why.

Perhaps no plant better symbolizes the Sonoran Desert than the saguaro, which grows nowhere else in the world.

Cactus expert Marty Wojciechowski of Arizona State University suspects that the listener's "pseudo-saguaros" might be another type of cactus, such as a young barrel.

He explained the missing young saguaros, too.

"It is actually hard to find young saguaros. They are generally under some bush. I mean, they typically grow sort of protected by larger plants, and it's only when they get, you know, a foot high or so do you actually see them," said Wojciechowski.

The fact that saguaros grow quite slowly and can take up to a century to develop arms could add to the confusion.

Thanks to Susan for submitting this to Q&AZ. Find out more at

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