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The Southwest's icon: how to help the saguaro cactus

Saguaro National Park
Posted at 6:49 AM, Oct 19, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The saguaro cactuses, towering above visitors with its long, outstretched arms, is the icon of the southwest. Arizonans see them every day, a constant in the Sonoran desert landscape.

In Tucson, Saguaro National Park is one of the only parks dedicated to the conservation and study of a specific plant species. Friends of Saguaro National Park Executive Director Fred Stula said it's important to study the saguaros to give us insight into how species survive in the desert environment. One of the ways people can help the plant is to adopt the saguaros here at the park.

“It’s a symbolic adoption that goes to research, inventories and monitoring of the saguaros," Stula said.

The restricted funds for the donation help researchers and the park with protecting the plant. Fisher said the park is protected land but they don't intervene with the saguaros, giving nature a change to run its course.

When someone adopts a saguaro, they don't get to take it home but they do receive a certification of adoption.

“You get a letter detailing exactly what the programs and a supports programs that support saguaros at the park and you get a certificate with your name on it," Stula said.

Stula said after the parks most recent census, they found there are over two million saguaros in the park, which is an important park of the desert ecosystem."

“Birds live in and on saguaros so that’s a really a really important part of our ecosystem here," he said.

Andy Fisher, the chief of interpretation and public programming for Saguaro National Park, said milions of visitors come to the park every year, enthralled by the

“Saguaros are only here, they only grow in the Sonoran desert," she said. "So if you want to see them, this is where you come."

With the last year's lack of rain and high temperatures, the saguaros were strained. Stula said earlier this year, many people noticed the saguaros blooming on the side of the arms instead of the normal blooms on the top of the arm.

"We've seen the effects of climate change, with the rising temperatures we see that saguaros bloom earlier," Stula said. “Those are the things we found to better understand and that’s why from 2010 to 2020 there was an increase of about 120,000 saguaros."

Stula said park visitors are enthralled by the allure and majesty of the saguaros, which is why people donate to the park.

“I can’t tell you how many people come to the park for the very first time and they don’t have any expectations of making this lifelong connection to the park but they come here for the first time and they are connected by it."

There are other plants and animals that people can adopt at the park from bobcats to a gila monster. People can adopt the plants on the Friends of Saguaro website.