Favorite Cacti: The Crooked Finger-Crossing Saguaro on the hill behind my house

The view out of my bedroom windows is arresting for so many reasons; chief among them are the two saguaros on the northern slope of the hill (whose name I would love to know, by the way).

The northern peak of a twin-hill behind my house. The Saguaro in question is all the way to the right, but to the left of the electric pole.

In the first place they’re interesting because saguaros tend not to grow on north-facing slopes (at least this far north), since they’re deprived of morning sunlight facing north whereas, on a slope to the south(east), the sun hits them as soon as it rises, clearing any frost threatening them. Individuals unfortunate enough to germinate on northern slopes are killed off by frost pretty young.

I ought to have realized these are not naturally occurring. In fact, on a walk the other day up behind my place, I encountered them up close in someone’s yard, along with several younger individuals. Maybe ‘not naturally occurring’ is a little too categorical, since it’s possible the people that lived here in the past nurtured this saguaro that sprouted up in their yard; but this cactus is quite old, so maybe it’s just an incredibly fortunate individual.

I’m pretty sure that whatever-it-is on the top growth-tip is an anti-frost measure, although I can’t say why it’s only the very top tip that got one and none of the others. The flopped-over limb tells us that they have experienced at least one bad frost. Because of the high water content, frost-crystals form inside cacti like millions of tiny daggers.

It also looks like the central top is a replacement-limb: probably the frost that hurt the lower limb also struck the growth-tip of the main trunk. You can see the frost-kill just above the spot where all the limbs emerge.

The same frost event may have led to the total loss of a limb; whether frost or humans, just above the isolated counter-balance limb, you can see a huge scar where a limb had once been growing.

The lean on this saguaro though! It’s pretty clear that they’re going to end up falling sooner than later, so every morning when I open my blinds I check for them on the hillside: still there? Still there!

Isn’t it kind of fitting that this saguaro looks like they’re crossing their fingers?!

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