If there was one symbol that defined the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, it would have to be the Saguaro. (Yes, that's me in the photo above, hugging the saguaro. Not something I'd normally do, but this one's base was decaying and had lost its needles).
Here are some interesting facts about the saguaro. Although the cactus can reach up to heights of 40-60 feet (12-18 meters), it is actually rather slow-growing. In its first 8 years of life, the saguaro might only be 1 1/2 inches (3.81 cm) tall. It often starts its life under the protection of an ironwood or mesquite "nurse tree." Once it begins growing, it absorbs the nutrients and water from the nurse tree, thus killing it. The Saguaro has a very shallow root system (4-6 inches), with one root stem going two feet. The root system typically is as wide as the height of the cactus. It can weigh up to 4,800 pounds (2,177 kg).
A Saguaro typically grows its first "arm" at around 50-70 years of age. Up to 25 arms may be found on a saguaro. It first bloom appears around 30 years. At only around 125 years of age is it considered and "adult" saguaro. They generally die around 150-175 years of age, but may reach 200 years. Once the cactus dies, its interior woody ribs can be used to build furniture, fences, or roofs.