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I am now running my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Behind the Black. For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. These companies practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.


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Crested Saguaro

Crested saguaro

Today I took the morning off to do a hike with Diane and friend Susan. I did this mostly because other caving-related conservation work on recent and future weekends has made it impossible for me to go hiking with my wife. Since she hikes with Susan on Fridays, I decided to join them.

We went to Tucson Mountain Park, on the west side of Tucson, to do one of the more well known trails. The photo to the right, taken by Diane back in 2016, shows the spectacular crested saguaro she discovered in plain site on that hike but had gone unnoticed by us for years.

Everyone knows saguaros for their classic western look that makes it the state wildflower of Arizona. Normally they have a central post that sometimes has one or more arms extending from it. For normal saguaros the tops of the central post and the arms are almost always symmetrical and rounded.

However, in rare cases (about 1 in 10,000) something strange happens and a saguaro begins to grow wildly at its peak, or even along its entire length. Such freaks are called crested or cristate saguaros, and only about 2,200 have been found throughout the saguaro range in the southwest. When you find one it is always with a sense of triumph and wonder.

We began to look for crested saguaros during hikes around 2015, after a friend had shown us two on a nearby hike that we had done frequently without ever noticing this wonder of nature that was right before our eyes. Thus Diane’s discovery to the right in 2016. Today we went back on that same hike and found it again. It had not changed in any way in the past four years that I could tell when comparing pictures. Regardless, it is one of the wildest crested saguaros I’ve ever seen.

No one really knows why this happens. My theory today, in looking at this one, is that it was on drugs.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • There’s a rather spectacular crested saguaro along a hiking trail just north of Phoenix, in the Seven Springs area of the Tonto National Forest. I haven’t been there recently, but it was still there at least 4 years ago.

    A more modest one is on display at the trailhead by the McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve near Scottsdale. It had been recovered from “poachers”, and replanted there in 2006.

  • Gary

    Fungal or bacterial infections are causes of witches’ broom type of abnormal growth on trees. The Alberta Spruce is an example of such being vegatatively reproduced, although sometimes a branch will revert to normal. I suspect this is the case with the cactus.

  • Foxbat

    They have one of these in the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I highly recommend a visit there.

  • “My theory today, in looking at this one, is that it was on drugs.”

    Any peyote cacti nearby?

  • wayne

    Sturgill Simpson –
    Turtles All The Way Down

  • Alex Andrite

    I nominate this pic for the “Cool Image Time” Club.

    Thanks Diane for the pic and Mr. Z for the lesson.

  • Edward

    Decades ago, I took an ecology class in which the instructor described the saguaro as technically a tree, meaning that when a desert with many of these plants in it is technically a forest. Imagine that, a desert forest!

    Since then, I have heard that the saguaro is only tree-like, which suggests that these parts of the desert are only forest-like. Not quite as imaginative as my instructor’s description, but fun nonetheless.

  • Lee S

    It certainly looks like a cactus…. The very definition of how we Europeans view the dust bowl of the US… ( Blame bugs bunny and roadrunner!!! )
    Is it actually a cactus?
    I know I could, but I’m sure the insight from asking here will be more informative and entertaining!

  • Lee S: You are exhibiting a level of laziness here that deserves no help, and a lot of derision. I provided links in the post that explains all. You can’t even click on those?

  • Lee S

    Bob…. I am taking a glass of wine, and enjoying the 20 minutes I have between putting my kids to bed, and putting myself to bed. Yes, I am perfectly capable of clicking links, and I do know how to Google, but as I actually said, I was expecting something more fun and personal from the good readership of your blog.
    It is unfortunate that the first response I get is a spot of abuse from your good self.
    My request was made in light humour, perhaps my humour doesn’t come across too well in translation.. it wouldn’t be the first time, but don’t worry… I will research this mildly interesting topic for myself… Heaven forbid I be judged as lazy. ;-)

  • Lee S: I work hard to provide people my sources, which also provide a lot of additional cool information. I thus hope you understand my irritation by your question, when I already provided the answer, in the very post you were commenting on.

    In fact, I provided you a perfect way to fill that break time, with your wine. I hope you use it, and enjoy.

  • Lee S

    Bob….. You know I appreciate the service you provide with this blog, I respect and admire your knowledge and the research you do, to feed us unwashed masses tidbits of information from the last frontier, and although we don’t see eye to eye on politics, (to say the least! :-) ) I return day after day to read, learn, and occasionally comment on the topics you post.
    It was not my intention to wind you up, even tho according to my ex wife I am good at winding anything up apart from the clock.
    I wish you a peaceful evening, and promise to be less needy and more clicky in the future!

  • wayne

    “Road Runner Theme”
    Barbara Cameron
    The Cape Coral Jazz Festival 2013

  • Edward_2

    Robert, Have you ever met Don Lancaster?

  • Edward_2: Yup. Local caver of some note. Gave a talk at a Arizona caving event a few years ago about his work on the hanging canals. And he has been a source of information for me for some of the caves in this area.

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