The saguaro (Carnegiea gigantean) is the largest cactus species in the United States, native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. It is an iconic plant that was declared the official state cactus of Arizona. Although not an endangered species, saguaro fall under protected Arizona native plants.
This means that harvesting, possessing, or transportation of saguaro cacti from their growing site is prohibited, except under special permit or in accordance with state law. Explains the Arizona department of Agriculture.
Additionally, the saguaro cactus is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which guides nations across the world on how to protect threatened species by regulating and monitoring their trade.
Why is the saguaro protected?
The saguaro cactus is protected by law majorly due to its unique and important ecological role in the Sonoran Desert, as well as its cultural significance to native communities. The cactus is considered a cultural heritage symbol of the American West.
Ecologically, the saguaro cactus serves as a crucial habitat and food sources for a variety of desert animals, including birds, reptiles, and mammals. Its removal can have far-reaching consequences on the balance of the local ecosystem.
Culturally, the saguaro cactus holds great significance to Native American communities in the southwestern region, particularly the Tohono O’odham, who have since used the plant for food, medicine, and religious ceremonies.
In recognition of its unique and important ecological and cultural values, the saguaro is protected by law to ensure its survival and preservation for future generations.
What is the penalty for cutting down a saguaro cactus?
Unauthorized removal of a saguaro cactus from public or private lands without legal approval can attract fines and/or imprisonment. The nature of penalty vary depending on the jurisdiction, the circumstances of the violation, and the specific regulations in place.
In Arizona, for example, the unauthorized cutting or removal of saguaro cactus on public lands is a Class 2 misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $750 and/or up to 4 months in jail.
On private lands, the same offence can attract a fine of up to $1,000, as well as the requirement to replace the cactus.
In general, it is important to abide by any laws governing the protection of saguaro cacti and other native species in order to ensure their survival and preservation for the benefits of ecological needs and future generations.
Is it illegal to propagate saguaro cactus?
Many people desire to use saguaro cactus in their indoor or outdoor décors. Propagating saguaro cactus for personal use is generally not illegal as long as it’s done in a responsible and sustainable manner. However, the commercial sale of the plant or its parts may be subject to regulations and restrictions.
Propagation of saguaro cactus can be done through stem cuttings or seed germination. However, saguaro is a slow growing cactus that can take 30 to 50 years to produce fruit. Stem cuttings therefore becomes the easiest way to start new plants.
Just like propagating the Peruvian apple cactus, you need to obtain a cutting preferably from a branch or top of the cactus. Be sure to use a sterilized sharp knife to prevent spread of infections. Let the cutting dry for several days in a warm but not directly sunny spot for cut-end to callous.
Once ready, plant it in a well-draining soil mix. Be sure to mist the soil when it’s completely dry. Place the cutting in bright sunny location but not in direct sunlight. Regularly monitor the planting and be patient as it may take weeks to months for roots or new growth to form.
Note that, saguaro cactus grows very slowly and it may take more than a century to reach maturity. Saguaro National Park studies shows that the cactus grows between 1 and 1.5 inches in the first eight years of its life. The growth rate may vary depending on care and the climatic conditions.
Can you grow saguaro cactus in your home?
It is possible to grow saguaro cactus in your home, although it is a slow-growing species that requires a long-term commitment and patience.
The saguaro can grow to 40 feet tall and live for over 150 years thus not suitable for small homes or apartments. Cactus too tall and falling over may need pruning or staking to remain upright.
To grow a saguaro cactus indoors, you will need a bright, sunny location with consistent temperatures. A sunny window can be an ideal spot. The soil should be well-draining preferably a cactus or succulent potting mix, and the pot should have drainage holes at the bottom.
If you are interested in growing cacti in your home, you may want to consider starting with more manageable species that are better suited to indoor conditions. Saguaro can also be a good option if you are patient enough but you need to grow it in line with your state laws.
Saguaro is a protected cactus species which can only be removed, transported or propagated under special permit from the state. It is a slow growing cactus with important ecological and cultural values in its native habitat. Be sure to abide by your state laws if you want to grow it in your home or garden.
- Saguaro National Park Service: Threats to the saguaro
- Arizona State University: Defending Desert-dwellers
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.