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  • Writer's pictureMark L. Johnson

Fruitful Hike

Hiked the Upper Javelina Trail early this morning. First time on the new section near Boulder Canyon Pass (see photos in collage).

The big story of the day is the tremendous amount of fruit on most saguaros. There are still some flowers blooming but most have gone by and the fruit will be ripening, turning bright red and splitting open in the next few weeks.

One saguaro fruit contains 2,000 to 2,500 tiny black seeds. Once the fruit ripens and splits open, the birds are first in line for the seeds and then the fruit falls to the ground dispersing the remaining seeds.

Saguaro seeds require monsoon rains (1.5 inches over 2-3 days) to germinate. This is why there are no saguaros in the western end of the Sonoran Desert (Colorado River to Palm Springs).

The seed/seedling mortality rate is extremely high due to consumption by animals and extreme weather conditions. The National Park Service (1) estimates that only 1 out of 1,000 seeds will germinate and become a seedling. Less than 1% of seedlings will live beyond one year and become juvenile saguaros. This is why we need to protect the Tortolita Preserve and other critical saguaro habitat in our region.

Therefore, it is good to see the high number of saguaro fruit this year which will hopefully increase the odds for juvenile saguaros to take the place of the old-timers we have lost.

(1) Ecology of Saguaro II-National Park Service (NPS) Monograph No. 8, Warrant Steenbergh (NPS), Charles Lowe (University of Arizona), 1977.


Here is a collage of trail, saguaro fruit and juvenile saguaro photos taken this morning.


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