Denise Goldberg's blog

Friday, December 13, 2013

among saguaro

Did you know that when you say "saguaro" there isn't a "G" sound? It sounds like there is a "W". Sometimes I wonder why words have the spellings they do - isn't it odd to include letters that aren't used?

We started today with a good breakfast and good conversation. Then we headed to the visitor center for the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. Denise got a few recommendations for hikes, and we headed out on the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. That's an 8 mile winding one-way road with occasional spots to pull off and a few larger spots to leave cars while the occupants go wandering down a trail. We saw two people running the loop road and quite a few biking it - but we only saw a couple of other people hiking. It's a good thing that Denise likes wandering without extra companions (besides me, that is!).

When Denise was chatting with the people staffing the national park visitor center she learned something very interesting about saguaros. They grow very slowly, and for protection they grow under a "nurse plant". That's a faster growing tree that shelters slower growing plants and helps them to survive. Denise asked what happens when the saguaro is grown into a large size and no longer needs shelter; the person she was talking to said that the nurse plant eventually dies because the saguaro sucks up all of the water. That's pretty interesting, isn't it?

It took a really long time to drive that short 8-mile loop. We started before 9 and it was almost 4 hours later when we finished! The speed limit was pretty slow - even a couple of curves that were marked at 5 MPH! That wasn't the real reason it took that long. We stopped for a short walk, then for a longer hike, then for another walk. And we stopped at pull-outs any time Denise wanted to look a little harder at something. It was bright sunlight, just a wisp or two of clouds over distant mountains. It was very interesting, but I could still hear Denise wishing for a few clouds.

After we finished the loop drive and our hiking we headed to Tohano Chul, a botanical garden in a suburb of Tucson. We're staying on the western edge of Tucson and the garden is to the northeast. It seemed a bit odd to me to drive across town to see more cactus but Denise really wanted to visit there. She was right, it is a pretty cool place. There were many kinds of cactus (with signs, so we could learn something new), and there was some artwork too. Denise really liked a sculpture of a vulture perched up in a tree.

--- Rover

saguaro cactus, in the arms of a nurse plant
saquaro cactus in the arms of a nurse tree

more on nurse trees in the National Park Service
The Saguaro Cactus information sheet