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Record heat contributes to killing off iconic saguaro cactuses

A lack of precipitation coupled with extreme heat has contributed to major stress on the iconic saguaro cactuses.
Record heat contributes to killing off iconic saguaro cactuses
Posted at 7:59 PM, Jul 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-31 20:59:13-04

Record high temperatures in many parts of the United States have contributed to major stress on plants, animals and humans. The extreme heat, coupled with a lack of rainfall, has caused problems with Arizona's iconic saguaro cacti. 

SEE MORE: Extreme heat expected to be costly, especially in Texas

The Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona said that the condition of its cacti have been affected because of the lack of precipitation and record high sustained heat conditions. 

Temperatures in Phoenix have held above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks. On Monday night temperatures calmed down, hovering in the 80s after much needed rain visited the area. 

Experts say the high heat puts excessive stress on the cacti, despite their ability to survive in desert climates. While they might experience some respite during the night in the cooler desert air, extreme heat during the day can tend to suffocate the cacti, experts say. 

The saguaro cactus is native to the Sonoran Desert and are considered giants among cactus species. 

The area's Tohono O’odham nation considers the iconic cactus not as plants, but as respected members of their group, the National Parks Service writes.

They can grow at altitudes of up to 4,000 feet above sea level. "Saguaro forests" are seen in more abundance around the Ajo Mountain Drive area of Arizona. 

But experts say that continued hikes in heat over time could cause new generations of the cactus giants not to be able to grow at all. 


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