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Saguaro Cactus Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

A saguaro cactus is a kind of cactus that is only found in a few places around the world. Come learn about the saguaro cactus, what animals need this cactus to survive, how big it gets, and other cool facts about this plant.

What is a Saguaro Cactus?

Imagine walking through a dry, hot desert. The sun is beating down and you feel like you are the only living thing for hundreds of miles. Suddenly, you see a giant cactus that looks like a tree. You stand in its shade for a while as birds land on flowers at the top of one of its spiny arms. You are cooling off in the shadow of a saguaro cactus!

A saguaro cactus (pronounced sah-WAH-roh) is the biggest cactus in the United States, has branches, and is only found in one desert on Earth.

Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro Cactus

You probably think of a saguaro when you draw a cactus. It's tall and its branches look like arms curving up toward the sky. Though we think of the saguaro as a common cactus, it's really only found in the wild in one desert between Arizona and Mexico called the Sonoran Desert, with a few appearing in California.

Some saguaro cacti may grow as many as 25 arm-like branches, and some never grow any. A saguaro cactus can live up to 200 years, grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall, and weigh as much as 4,800 pounds if it has taken in a lot of water through its roots when it rains. That's heavier than a full-grown female hippopotamus!

The saguaro cactus is a very slow-growing cactus. It might take 8-10 years for a cactus to grow an inch! During a rainstorm, a saguaro can absorb and hold about 200 gallons of water, which is enough to fill an average bathtub more than four times! That water is saved so the saguaro can use it when there is no rain and it's very dry.

Is Anybody Home?

You might not think of a cactus as a great place to live, but some desert animals would disagree. Saguaros are covered in pointy spines, but that doesn't stop animals from living in them and using them in other ways.

Desert woodpeckers carve holes in the cactus and make a nest. When they move out, other animals, including small owls and finches, move in. It's like an apartment in the desert!

Saguaro Cactus with Nest Holes
Saguaro Cactus with Nest Holes

Hawks build their nests in the saguaro, too, but they don't carve holes. They tuck their nests into the saguaro's arm-like branches. When they move out, larger owls or ravens may take over their nests.

All You Can Eat Buffet

The saguaro cactus isn't just a great place to live, it's a great place to grab a snack, too.

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