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New saguaro cacti are growing in lower numbers, experts say

Posted at 11:10 AM, Jul 06, 2023

TUCSON, AZ — Fred Stula is the executive director of Friends of Saguaro National Park and has been looking at the way that the climate has been affecting saguaro cacti.

He said, in recent decades, climate change has affected the water saguaros have gotten and that’s why they’re growing slower.

“Really for the last 20 years, we haven’t really had kind of a good cycle of cool, wet conditions,” he said.

That’s why he said they’re slower to grow, so there’s fewer of them entering the population.

However, that doesn’t mean the amount of saguaro cacti hasn’t grown at all.

Stula said in 2010 there were about 1.9 million saguaro in the national park. In 2020, he said that number went up to just over 2 million.

That’s why it’s the mission of Friends of Saguaro National Park to remove invasive species.

“We remove invasive buffelgrass from throughout the park to help foster the growth of saguaros,” Stula said.

He said the park also did research about how nurse trees help saguaros grow.

“It protects it from the heat but it also helps to kind of bring water up from the soil,” he said.

However, the park doesn’t plant saguaros and they don’t transplant very many unless there is construction.

“So when you transplant it, you end up kind of cutting off some of those roots and they can’t grow back to the full size that they were at before,” he said.

Instead, he said they have the 'Adopt a Saguaro' program which puts money into their efforts.

He advised that people should not disturb them because the desert is their natural habitat.

“Just leaving them alone and letting them grow naturally,” he said.