If you have never visited the Sonoran Desert (on either the U.S. or Mexican side) I highly recommend it. Because the Sonoran Desert has more rainfall than most other deserts in the world, it is home to the largest number of plant species of any desert in the world. Tequila lovers should know of the agave, desert hikers accustomed to the terrors of prickly pear, and we're all familiar with the immediately recognizable silhouette of the saguaro.
Large desert plants command a lot of my respect. They fight for survival on extremely scarce resources - like sand and droplets of water - only to be completely taken advantage of by animals like bugs and birds and humans. The saguaro can have a tap root that goes down barely three feet but spreads out over a hundred feet. A mature saguaro can store well over a thousand gallons of water and stand over 70 feet tall! One of the oldest cactus in the world was the 300-year-old saguaro known as, "Old Granddaddy". And, scientists believe that saguaro cacti have some of the longest living cells on the planet - with its stomatal guard cells and medulla cells living for as long as 150 years.
Whether you're a seasoned botanist or a simple admirer like me the saguaro strikes as a compelling and interesting plant - as long as you don't try to give it too many hugs.
A saguaro cactus stands in the middle of the Arizona desert holding a sign, "free hugs".
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