Saguaro Land: Author explores the history saguaros as a symbol of the American West

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - 10:21am
Updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - 10:23am

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Saguaro Land is a series from The Show looking at the Sonoran Desert — the lushest, hottest desert in the world that happens to be our home.

William L. Bird author of "In the Arms of Saguaros: Iconography of the Giant Cactus."
University of Arizona Press
William L. Bird author of "In the Arms of Saguaros: Iconography of the Giant Cactus."

It's perhaps the most iconic figure of the Sonoran Desert: the saguaro cactus. The great bastions of the Southwest, standing tall and waving boldly in just about every image of the American West for decades. 

But, just how far back does this imagery go in American history? And how has this one relatively restricted plant species come to bear the burden of so many expectations?

William L. Bird Jr. has some answers.

Bird is a curator emeritus at the National Museum of American History and author of the new book "In the Arms of Saguaros: Iconography of the Giant Cactus."

The Show spoke with him about his extensive research into the saguaro and what he found when he dove into it. 

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