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Plant preservation: volunteers rescue cacti and succulents across Southern AZ

Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society
Posted at 7:42 PM, Feb 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 14:05:46-05

VAIL, Ariz. (KGUN) — It took the strength of seven men to hoist a 1,000 pound barrel cactus into the trunk of a pickup truck. They took it to a better home after growing in the desert for decades.

"It's almost 124,000 plants that we've saved," said Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society President, Richard Wiedhopf.

On Sunday in Vail, the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society added dozens more plants to that list.

"We're looking at the little plants, or the plants that are overlooked and may have taken 100 years to grow. We save those," said Wiedhopf.

The non-profit organization is made up of thousands of volunteers with a passion for preserving plants. They travel around Southern Arizona, find spots where new development is coming, acquire permits and save plants before it's too late.

"We were originally notified by the developer, Diamond Ventures. We started our rescues about three or four years ago." said Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society Rescue Coordinator, Donna Ellis.

The rescued plants are most commonly taken to Pima Prickly Park: a seven acre public desert. Others go off to residential homes.

"This is a very special place. The folks in Tucson want to keep it a special place. They want to preserve the heritage of the Sonoran Desert," said Wiedhopf.

Helping out is as simple as picking up a shovel.

"You're not going to stop growth, so let's try to do it in the best possible way," said Wiedhopf.

To learn more about the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, please visit their website.