Saguaros are “blooming like gangbusters” this spring — producing far more of their brilliant white blooms than in recent years, plant experts say.
One possible reason: The big cacti could be drawing on pent-up energy from previous years when freezing winter weather might have inhibited spring flowering.
“They’re blooming heavily this spring, and many are flowering on the sides of the stems as well as at the tips,” said Mark Dimmitt, a cactus expert and retired director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Bill Peachey — a geologist and plant expert who has spent the past 18 years monitoring saguaros on a 2.5-acre plot of land southeast of Tucson — said saguaros there “are really outdoing themselves with flowers this year.”
“They’re blooming like gangbusters,” Peachey said. “They seem to be making up for the lousy bloom production of the last three years.”
Peachey said he has counted 7,946 saguaro blooms on the plot this year as of Wednesday. That’s well above the average number of blooms per year for the plot — 5,482 — “and this year’s bloom isn’t over yet,” he said.
Many factors could be involved in this year’s abundant bloom.
Among them, according to Peachey: “It could be that saguaros haven’t been able to expend energy in the form of fruiting for the last three years and they’ve got all this energy stored up. It might be a case of use it or lose it.”
The fruit of saguaros typically ripens in June and July, with the pulp of each fruit containing many seeds. The seeds germinate with the summer rains.
“We want a good monsoon,” Peachey said. “We want to get these things to open their seeds when the monsoon hits so we can get a new age cohort of little saguaros.”