All things saguaro, the unofficial cactus of Tucson
Sponsored by Visit Tucson
Tap to start
The saguaro (pronounced “suh-WAH-row”) is a tree-like cactus that stands over 40 feet tall. The highest concentration of them are found in Tucson’s Saguaro National Park, which protects nearly 2 million of the guardian-like green giants.
Located within the greater Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park is split into two parks, West and East, that flank Tucson. At the turn of the century, National Geographic named Saguaro the “Greatest National Park in America.”
For more primitive conditions, better trails, and arguably better views, head to the West entrance. For a paved road offering a bite-size sampling of the iconic cacti, consider a short drive through the East unit. Both have visitor centers.
Countless saguaro can be seen all throughout greater Tucson. With their “arms” raised to the sky, the sentinel-like plants appear to protect the city and look as if they might come alive at any moment, especially at dusk or dawn.
The tallest saguaro ever recorded stood 78 feet high. Many saguaro are as tall as your average maple tree and get “fatter” or “skinnier” depending on current rainfall.
Despite their great size, saguaro are very slow-growing and average just 1-2 inches in height per year. Saguaro are considered "adults" at 125 years old and usually live for about 150 years. The oldest saguaro are believed to exceed 200 years of age.
A single saguaro can hold over 200 gallons of water and weigh as much as six tons. The roots collect water, the body and arms store it, and the spines and waxy skin help to protect the precious resource from would-be thieves.
The saguaro’s beautiful bloom is the Arizona state flower. An icon of both the state and greater Sonoran desert, the special cacti are an inviting and delightful reason to visit. They’re also instrumental in supporting surrounding animal life.
After a saguaro dies, its woody “ribs” are used to build fences, native roofs, and fences. In both life and death, saguaro have their fingerprints all over Tucson.
Although cliche, the highly concentrated number of saguaro standing in Tucson are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the jolly green giants play a major role in the city's culture and history.
Carefully crafted collaboratively between Visit Tucson and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.
Go to page
We're sorry, it looks like your browser doesn't support this experience.