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The numbers are in: Roughly 1,000 damaged cacti found in Saguaro Census

saguaro cacti
Posted at 7:22 AM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 13:57:46-04

PHOENIX — The results of the Saguaro Census conducted by the Desert Botanical Garden are now in. The findings are both interesting and concerning.

With the help of 300 volunteers, including Mesa resident Scott Bartelt, the Saguaro Census documented nearly 8,500 saguaros Valley-wide.

Bartelt took more than 200 observations of saguaros in his neighborhood of Las Sendas. While roughly one-quarter of the saguaros he observed were healthy, the rest were stressed. The results surprised him.

"Before I took the census, I would've said 20-25% were stressed out. After doing it, I'd say more than half seemed to be stressed out," Bartelt said.

In total, 1,000 saguaros observed had some form of damage ranging from sun scorch to rotting.

The areas with the most saguaros were north Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert.

More than 300 volunteers took part in counting the saguaros back in May.

Aside from damage, they also recorded other information about the cacti.

They say the cactus with the most arms had 35 arms, while the one with the most holes had a whopping 47! It's unclear whether those holes were damage-related or natural.

The idea to start the census began in 2020 when record-setting temperatures hit the Valley, according to the Desert Botanical Garden's Chief Science Officer Kim McCue.

"A phenomenon that happened during that time is the saguaros around the Valley were literally collapsing in front of people's eyes," McCue said.

Other notable findings of the census show that there are fewer saguaros three feet or smaller, which are the younger saguaros, compared to medium or larger ones.

McCue says this is the beginning of a long-term project to better understand saguaros as a species and saguaros within the urban environment.

The Desert Botanical Garden will now randomly sample volunteers' saguaros and compare them to saguaros living in the wild.