Thursday, January 24, 2008

Saguaro NP East

Forget what I said earlier about how difficult it is for Saguaro Cacti to reproduce. I have the straight scoop via the information I obtained from the parks service. They produce the same amount of seeds I said earlier. But here’s the really difficult part. After they drop their seeds, they require 1 ½ inches of rain within the next day. Not enough, and the animals will eat them. Too much and they will wash away. If they get the amount of rain necessary, they still have a difficult ride if they germinate. After one year, they are only ¼-inch tall. After five years they are one INCH tall. And after 15 years, they will be only 1 foot tall. It’s amazing any of them exist at all.

We saw pictures of the density of the saguaros from 1933 through the present. The density has decreased drastically. However, now that they are protected, they are making a comeback. The decrease was due to building in the area, but that wasn’t the only problem. The literature I had didn’t specify anything beyond that, except to say that there were other problems. In any event, I think I am falling in love with the desert. The variety of cacti and animals is truly impressive, and the scenery is spectacular. Today the lighting was just right and the sky was filled with puffy white clouds. The air seems clean here, and the sky a beautiful turquoise blue.

We drove the Cactus Forest Loop, which is eight miles. There are several turnouts that give views of the surrounding mountains. It is a beautiful valley. We hiked the Cactus Garden Trail, which was about two miles. When we were finished, we felt we’d seen everything the landscape had to offer. I would have liked to have seen more wildlife. As it is, we will have to settle for what we saw in the museum—and that was quite a treat.

As we understand it, the Saguaro is something of a multi-story condominium with many different kinds of animals living in pecked out holes within them. There is a particular kind of owl called an Elf Owl that I would dearly have liked to have seen. I kept my eyes peeled, but to no avail. The literature tells us that the environment within the Saguaro is 20 degrees cooler in the summer and 20 degrees warmer in the winter. After a rain, they are able to absorb 200 gallons of water—enough to last them an entire year. They don’t have a long tap root like the mesquite do. Rather, they have a network of roots that spread out just under the surface of the sand at least as wide a radius as they are tall. It’s quite an impressive story of adaptation.

So that’s about all I have to say about the Saguaro. Tomorrow we are going to see the photography museum at the University of Arizona and also the aviation museum. I don’t know if we will have time to see the mission since we are moving on Saturday. We have enjoyed our week in Tucson, and we enjoyed just stopping and staying in one place for a while. As I write this I don’t know where we are headed next, except to say that we will be in New Mexico.

Here is the link to the pictures I took today. Enjoy.


Lisa said...

I'm enjoying your photos and narratives on the cactus. Having grown up around them (and not loving them), I have mostly taken them for granted.

felix's dad said...

Awesome shots Barb! I especially like the desert landscape shots. Great lighting, excellent composition! :-)

felix's dad said...

So Mike, did you get a waterproof backup camera this time, or do they even make them? If not, maybe we should think about a product....

Barbara said...

I'm glad you like the photos, Lisa and Chuck. Yes, Mike's new back-up camera is waterproof and he's as happy as a pig in mud now. The other one also blew out in direct sunlight. This one has a lens flare, but otherwise everything is still visible. I have one on my Jeep that has worked fine since it was installed months ago. He just started out with a crappy one.