Desert Beauty and Cactus Arms

Not long ago, I visited the desert outside of Tucson, Arizona.

From the Northeast, traveling South and West, I find the desert. Sometimes, reference to the desert suggests emptiness, or abandon. Of course the words desert and deserted share a common root. I was lucky enough to spend several days in and around the desert in Arizona.

New to me, I was entranced with this uniquely beautiful and curious landscape. There were hundreds or thousands of suguaro cacti in every view of the mountainside.

I thought about the yoga arm position that resembles the arms of a saguaro cactus. It is the postion we often call “Goddess Arms,” or “I Surrender,” or “Cactus Arms.”

Sit in sukhasana with cactus arms.

Sit in sukhasana with cactus arms.

From the Arizona Sonara Desert Museum, I learned this…

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is one of the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert. These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, although some never grow arms. These arms generally bend upward and can number over 25. Saguaros are covered with protective spines, white flowers in the late spring, and red fruit in summer.

Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, it is thought that the Saguaro obtains most of its moisture during the summer rainy season.

With the right growing conditions, it is estimated that saguaros can live to be as much as 150-200 years old.

Saguaro are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall (12-18m). When rain is plentiful and the saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

Click HERE to go to the Desert Museum’s website.

Saguaro cacti on the mountanside.

Saguaro cacti on the mountanside.