Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cardon Cacti & Saguaro Cacti - One in the Same?

Soaking up information on all things Baja like a beach-marooned sea sponge after a summer's drought, I believed everything I was told when first moving to the Peninsula. Pretty much. Don't even think of asking me about 'whale turds'!

Case in Point (another case): Cardon cactus is the same as saguaro found in the U.S., they are just called by different names. No, they are not the same but different, distinct species I now know. Here's the skivy.

The cardon cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) is the world's largest cactus. They are one of over 1000 species of cacti found on the Peninsula (sources vary on this number, some saying 800 species, others 1200, so I took the middle road...). They have been measured at nearly 21 meters (70 feet) high and can weigh up to 25 tons. Cardon cacti have been estimated to live over 3000 years.

The cardon is native to Baja where it exists in large numbers. A small number of these cacti can also be found in Sonora, Mexico on the mainland, a part of the Sonoran Desert region that encompasses areas in the U.S. and Mexico.

The saguaro, on the other hand, is not native to the Baja California Peninsula and is rarely found living there. A small number of saguaro cacti are found in Sonora Mexico on the mainland also, but they are primarily located in the southwest desert of the U.S. in states such as New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Cardon cacti and the saguaro are similar in that they are both columnar cacti, with vertical framework that allows their trunks to expand to store large amounts of water when it is available, then contract when water is scarce. This is why they look similar, and many think they are one in the same.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

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