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saguaro cactus skeleton illegal

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal

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Saguaro Cactus

Identifying Features

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is one of the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert. These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, although some never grow arms. These arms generally bend upward and can number over 25. Saguaros are covered with protective spines, white flowers in the late spring, and red fruit in summer.

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal
saguaro cactus skeleton illegal


Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, it is thought that the Saguaro obtains most of its moisture during the summer rainy season.


You find this cactus in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico. At the northern portion of their range they are more plentiful on the warmer south facing slopes. A few stray plants can also be found in southeast California.

Wild Status

The saguaro is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of this species.

Life Span

With the right growing conditions, it is estimated that saguaros can live to be as much as 150-200 years old.


Saguaro are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall (12-18m). When rain is plentiful and the saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

Quick Facts

  1. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States.
  2. Most of the saguaros roots are only 4-6 inches deep and radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep root, or tap root that extends down into the ground more than 2 feet.
  3. After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. The holes that birds nested in or “saguaro boots” can be found among the dead saguaros. Native Americans used these as water containers long before the canteen was available.

Cholla skeletons are sometimes used as walking sticks.  Artisans also use cholla skeletons to make Southwestern forms of art.

It is illegal to remove Saguaro and Cholla skeletons from the desert, unless you have permission from the owner.  Specimens can sometimes be purchased at certain plant nurseries that specialize in cacti.

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal
saguaro cactus skeleton illegal

Is it illegal to take a dead saguaro cactus in Arizona?

Saguaro skeletons (the woody structural part of the cactus that’s left after the cactus dies and the soft parts decay) are a hot item among landscapers and artists.

They can sell for thousands of dollars; even pieces of the skeleton can sell for hundreds of dollars.

As far as I’ve determined, there is presently no law prohibiting removal of cactus wood or skeletons from public lands in Arizona, which is the desert biome where most Saguaros occur is located.

Are saguaro skeletons protected?

Skeletal remains of the Saguaro and Cholla cacti being taken from private, State, and Public lands in Arizona may have an adverse impact on the fragile desert environment. Again, cactus skeletons (or any dead plant or plant parts) are not protected under the Arizona native plant law.

Is it illegal to remove a saguaro?

On federal land such as Saguaro National Park, it’s illegal to remove any plant, including saguaros, according to the National Park Service. As for state, tribal or private land, removal or destruction of saguaros in Arizona is illegal without the landowner’s permission and a permit.

Can you take a saguaro cactus from the desert?

Removing a Saguaro from Your Home or Business Although landowners, including residents and businesses, have the right to remove or destroy any native plants on their property, including protected species like the saguaro cactus, must first notify the Arizona Department of Agriculture and obtain a special permit.

Can I collect saguaro ribs?

Anyone interested in harvesting saguaro, a federally protected species, from public lands should contact their local Bureau of Land Management and check the specific laws pertaining to their region. In Arizona for example, saguaro ribs that are down and dead can be harvested only for personal use.

How much is my saguaro cactus worth?

Saguaro cactus costs about $100 per foot, with average prices ranging from $20 to $2,000 in the US for 2020 according to DFRanchandGardens. osieOnTheHouse says, “The smaller the saguaro, the less it will cost. But generally, they go for about $100 or more a foot if they are just spears and are in excellent condition.

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal
saguaro cactus skeleton illegal


What happens if you kill a saguaro cactus?

In Arizona, cactus rustling — stealing or killing the state’s iconic saguaros — is a felony. It’s illegal to shoot or deface the iconic cactuses or to remove them from parks, where the slow-growing succulents can reach more than 60 feet and live up to 200 years.

Can you go to jail for cutting down a cactus in Arizona?

Cutting down a cactus, like Arizona’s iconic saguaro, is a crime punishable with up to 25 years in prison and a hefty fine. A permit is required to cut a saguaro down even if it’s on private property. Saguaro National Park.

How can you tell how old a saguaro is?

The age of a cactus may be determined by measuring its height. In the case of the saguaro cactus, the most popular variety, it can reach up to an average of 40 feet tall in its lifetime.

What can I do with saguaro ribs?

Decorating and Furniture Saguaro cacti ribs have been incorporated into home decorations and furnishings. Native Americans used the ribs to make parts of babies’ cradles. The boots from the saguaro, the calloused structures that form around holes made by nesting birds to prevent water loss, can be used as containers.

saguaro cactus skeleton illegal
saguaro cactus skeleton illegal

Is it illegal to cut down a saguaro cactus in Arizona?

Destruction or theft of a saguaro is illegal under state law and can result in fines and a class 4 felony.

What are the ribs of a saguaro cactus called?

The woody remains of the saguaro are called ‘ribs’ and are what supports the Saguaro cactus. Above, is a photo of a Saguaro that had just fallen. You can easily see the ribs.

Is it illegal to remove skeletons from the desert?

It is illegal to remove Saguaro and Cholla skeletons from the desert, unless you have permission from the owner. Specimens can sometimes be purchased at certain plant nurseries that specialize in cacti.

What to do with saguaro cactus in desert?

Whenever a Saguaro cactus would fall in a landscape setting, we would move it to an out of the way area where it could decay. Then we would take the ribs and put them back into the landscape as a display.


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