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Carnegiea gigantea (saguaro cactus)

A star of many Western films, the iconic saguaro cactus is a spectacular feature of the Sonoran Desert in south western North America.
Carnegiea gigantea forest

Carnegiea gigantea forest (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Common name: 

saguaro cactus, giant cactus

Conservation status: 

Not officially listed as endangered or threatened but protected under the Arizona Native Plant Law which has strict regulations on collecting and selling saguaros.

Habitat: 

Sonoran Desert (Arizona, California, northern Mexico and Baja California).

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, food, construction material, firewood, important in local traditions.

Known hazards: 

The trunk of the cactus bears long, dense, stout, spines.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Caryophyllanae
Order: 
Caryophyllales
Family: 
Cactaceae
Genus: Carnegiea

About this species

Carnegiea gigantea was named in honour of the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). A true giant of the cactus family, it has become a part of film history as the iconic ‘Western cactus’ featured in many Western films. In Arizona, where its blossom is the official state flower, these giant cacti form entire forests. Their appearance is so spectacular and unique that an entire national park has been dedicated to them, the Saguaro National Park. A fitting tribute because the saguaro is not only beautiful and impressive, but is also the only member of the genus Carnegiea. However it’s most important feature is the part that it continues to play in long standing and significant aspects of Native American culture.

Synonym: 

Cereus giganteus Engelm.

Genus: 
Carnegiea

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