Q&AZ: What is happening to saguaros?

By Alexandria Krusniak
Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - 6:14pm
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2024 - 3:44pm

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Al Macias/KJZZ
A saguaro cactus in an Ahwatukee Foothills neighborhood.

KJZZ listener Shari Keith counted 17 fallen saguaro cacti within a 10-mile radius of where she lives in Ahwatukee.  Others had lost arms or looked unhealthy, and she wanted to know what is happening to saguaros.  

Saguaros and other cacti in the Valley are under great stress, according to Desert Botanical Garden’s Research Botanist Raul Puente. Saguaros are falling, losing arms or becoming discolored for many reasons including dehydration, too much sun exposure and high temperatures that last throughout the night.

“They are supposed to be adapted to the desert environment," said Puente. "But this year has been very extreme with this summer.”

Saguaros, Puente explained, are like accordions and when they become dehydrated they shrivel up. They also have shorter roots than most trees and other large plants. When subjected to too little or too much water, cacti can fall over.

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