Desert Fan – Crested Saguaro

The iconic Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) occasionally produces a crested, or cristate, tip. The rare, fan-shape branching is unique to each cactus. These ornate formations do bear a few flowers. Each blossom opens around midnight and lasts until the next day, around noon. As the sun rises, nighttime insects and bats give way to diurnal pollinators such as Gila Woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis) and honey bees (Apis mellifera). As prime pollinators, the woodpeckers thrust their heads into the flower, coating their head and face, and quickly move among the blossoms extracting nectar. They also relish the ripe fruits that burst open, revealing a thick mass of tiny seeds held within a sweet, delicious goo. The seeds are not destroyed during digestion and are later distributed throughout the desert. Gila Woodpeckers provide another vital service to Saguaros with the extraction of both the insects and the damage they do. The woodpeckers dig out insects along with damaged tissue, leaving holes of various sizes. They also chisel out nests in the trunks. The Saguaro protects its inner tissue by forming a woody skin, sealing the cavity, called a “boot”. As the Saguaro forest provides tall standing trunks, many birds and mammals find these cavities a safe place for a home.


Permanent Collection of the Art Institute of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis), Honey Bee (Apis mellifera,/em>).
Transparent Watercolor
Size: 12h” x 25”w
Original: SOLD
Archival Print: $350.00

Desert Fan - Crested Saguaro © Linda M. Feltner