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.