The Saguaro cactus grows just 2.5 centimeters (one inch) in its first decade. When many humans are getting their driver’s license this cactus is finally producing its first of up to 26 branches – at age 16!
A late bloomer, this cactus produces its first flower when it is 60 years old.
But once the Saguaro gets growing it proves that slow and steady wins the race and good things come to those who wait and…well, other adages like those ones. From its tiny beginnings the Saguaro can grow on to live 150-200 years and will top out between 12-18 meters (40-60 feet) tall making it the largest cactus in the United States. It is also weighty. If it receives enough rain it can weigh between 1,452-2,177 kilograms (3,200-4,800 pounds)…a far cry from the few ounces it weighed for the first ten years of its life.
Once it dies the dry ribs are used to build roofs, fences and used for parts in furniture. Birds also use the dead Saguaro for their home by punching holes into the cactus to create nests. These bird cavities are known as “Saguaro boots” and were used by people for water containers eons before the canteen was invented.
From the smallest to the tallest, these cactuses are both impressive and inspiring. You can visit them in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico.
We should mention there are pine trees in the Arctic that can grow even slower than the Saguaro cactus. One Sitka spruce has been recorded as growing only 27.5 centimeters (11 inches) in 98 years! However, the slow growth is completely due to its challenging environment. In favorable conditions the Sitka can reach over 90 meters (300 feet) and live over 700 years.
The Sitka spruce is native to the west coast of North America and can be found from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska to Fort Bragg in northern California.