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Useful Temperate Plants

Carnegiea gigantea

(Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

Cereus giganteus Engelm.

Pilocereus giganteus (Engelm.) Lem. ex C.F.Först. & Rümpler

Common Name: Saguaro

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General Information

Carnegiea gigantea is a very spiny, evergreen, succulent columnar cactus with usually 1 - 10 upright branches (exceptionally, up to 50 branches); it can grow up to 16 metres tall with the stem 25 - 75cm in diameter. Very slow-growing, the plant first develops as a single column, the branches only appearing after around 50 - 70 years when the plant is 4 metres or more tall[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
277
Title
Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database with an excellent collection of fact sheets about native N. American plants.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. The fruits are a staple food of the native people and are harvested in large quantities, many being preserved for later use. The plant is much grown as an ornamental.
Carnegiea gigantea has a wide range. Even though there is a decrease in the population, this species is still locally abundant and the observed decrease is not sufficient to trigger a threat listing[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. Although not considered endangered, the plant is protected under the Arizona Native Plant Law. The most significant impact on their populations is posed by urban development, and developers have a duty to move or protect any plants that would otherwise be destroyed during building operations[
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..
]. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..

Range

Southwestern N. America - California, Arizona, northern Mexico (Sonora)

Habitat

Desert scrub and thorn scrub, growing on well-drained land, on hillsides and on plains; at elevations from sea level to 1,370 metres[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height10.00 m
Growth RateSlow
PollinatorsBats, Bees, Birds
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Carnegiea gigantea is native to the semi-arid and arid regions of southwest N. America, where rainfall occurrs in winter and again in the summer. Amounts can vary widely from year to year but average annual amounts are around 150 - 400mm. The plant is not very cold tolerant but can survive short periods with temperatures falling as low as -5°c so long as the soil is free-draining and the weather is dry. Death will occur if the plant is exposed to below freezing temperatures for 29 or more consecutive hours[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
]. The plant requires hot summers and mild winters if it is to thrve.
Requires a sunny position. The plant is found in the wild on shallow soils that are light, coarse-textured, and
rocky[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
]. Carnegiea gigantea does not occur at sites where soils are saline or subjected to flooding or long periods of freezing[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].
An extremely slow-growing plant, reaching only 6mm tall after two years. It only starts flowering once it has reached about 30 - 35 years of age and a height of about 2 metres[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
]. The first branches, which grow out from the sides of the stem, only appear after it has reached a height of 4 - 5 metres and an age of 50 - 70 years.
The plant has a deep anchoring taproot up to 1 metre long and an extensive, shallow, lateral root system that allows it to take up water quickly after the infrequent rains typical of the Sonoran Desert. During this time the trunks swell considerably[10.50].
The plant is the state flower of Arizona[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or cooked. The delicious fruits have a sweet, juicy, red flesh with lots of tiny, black, nutty-tasting seeds (up to 2,000 per fruit)[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. They can be eaten fresh or turned into juice, syrup, jam, wine or vinegar[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
,
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..
]. They are also dried and stored for later use[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
]. When dried as fruit leather, it can be kept for many months and is eaten as a nutritious trail food[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. The red, fleshy fruits are 45 - 95mm long and 25 - 44mm in diameter[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

The seeds are rich in protein and oil. They can ber ground into a flour and made nto a mush or used to prepare a cake[
277
Title
Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database with an excellent collection of fact sheets about native N. American plants.
,
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
,
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. The seeds can also be made into a buttery paste that is used on tortillas[
1438
Title
Food Plants in the Americas: A Survey of the Domesticated, Cultivated, and Wild Plants Used for Human Food in North,
Publication
 
Author
Kermath B.M.; Bennett B.C.' Pulsipher L.M.
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
A pre-publication draft of an amazing, on-going work first started in 1985. It contains information on more than 3,900 taxa from the Americas - from Arctic regions to the Tropics
].

An edible oil is obtained from the seed[
1438
Title
Food Plants in the Americas: A Survey of the Domesticated, Cultivated, and Wild Plants Used for Human Food in North,
Publication
 
Author
Kermath B.M.; Bennett B.C.' Pulsipher L.M.
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
A pre-publication draft of an amazing, on-going work first started in 1985. It contains information on more than 3,900 taxa from the Americas - from Arctic regions to the Tropics
].

The succulent stems have been used in times of need as an emergency supply of water. This is said to at least be refreshing, though unpleasant and slimy to the taste[
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..
].

Medicinal

The woody skeleton of the plant can be used as splints for broken bones[
277
Title
Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database with an excellent collection of fact sheets about native N. American plants.
].

A gruel was traditionally made from the saguaro fruits and used as a medicine to make a mother's milk flow after childbirth[
277
Title
Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database with an excellent collection of fact sheets about native N. American plants.
].

Other Uses

Some birds dig their nests into the plant's flesh; as a response the plant produces a hard callus lining to the cavity that seals it off from the surrounding living tissue. Once the plant has died and the soft flesh has rotted away, the hard lining of these old bird nesting cavities remains intact, forming curious looking container-like structures that stick out among the remains of the dead plant. These so-called 'saguaro boots' can be fashioned into various containers or vessels, including drinking bottles, dishes, and tobacco pouches[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
].

The internal 'woody ribs' (which form an inter-connected ring-like skeleton) of dead stems provided building materials (especially roof beams)[
277
Title
Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database with an excellent collection of fact sheets about native N. American plants.
]. They are made into slats for house frames, walls, and shelves, and also fashioned into walking sticks, saguaro fruit-gathering poles, light tools, tongs for picking cholla buds and joints, cradleboards, fire drill boards etc[
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..
,
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
].
The wood is used as firewood[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]

Propagation

Seed - it has a short viability and is best sown as soon as ripe. Fresh seed germinates readily[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2023-09-27. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Carnegiea+gigantea>

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