Fast Facts

  • Adopted the Arizona state flower in 1931
  • Botanical name: Carnegiea gigantea
  • Also called the sahuaro cactus
  • Saguaro trivia: The fruit of the saguaro can be eaten raw or made into a jam

It may come as a little surprise that the Arizona state flower doesn’t grow on a bush or on a shrub, but on a cactus. The saguaro flower grows on the giant saguaro, the largest cactus in the country.

These magnificent cacti thrive in the hot, dry Arizona desert, particularly in the Sonoran Desert which is located in the southwestern part of the state. The cacti can also been seen in the Saguaro National Park which is outside of Tucson. Flowers from the blossoming saguaros draw visitors from nearby Phoenix , Mesa and Glendale each year.

Saguaros begin their life in the shade of a shrub or small tree. This shade provides shelter from the harsh desert sun. The cacti grow very slowly, about an inch per year. However, after time, they eventually become giants of the desert. At maturity, saguaros can reach heights of up to 50 feet and can live to be 200 years old. Older saguaros develop arms that grow out and upwards, creating the familiar cactus shape often associated with the desert.

The Arizona state flower appears at the tips of the saguaro’s trunk or arms each year during the months of May and June. Its unique bloom consists of a three-inch creamy white blossom with an orange center along with waxy petals. The blossoms also give off a fragrant scent.

Most interestingly, the Arizona state flower has an extremely short bloom period. Saguaro flowers open in the cool of the night and then close the following day around midday when the sun warms up the land. Fortunately for photographers who love to capture the saguaro in bloom, a single cactus may produce up to 200 flowers that bloom over the course of a month.

Arizona’s state flower is also a major contributor in the food supply of the desert animals. Birds, bats and bees pollinate the saguaro’s flowers, which in turn produce red, seeded fruits that desert birds and animals feed on. The saguaro is also home to the desert’s Gila woodpecker, which hollows out holes in the saguaro’s trunk to form its nest.

The Arizona state flower is not only important to the desert wildlife, but it is also a great symbol of the southwest and of Arizona. Images and pictures of the southwest often show the stately saguaro at sunrise or sunset.

Sources

Arizona Secretary of State Website for Kids

http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/kids/kids_state_symbols_flower.htm

Saguaro National Park, National Park Service

http://www.nps.gov/sagu/naturescience/saguaro_q_a.htm