Saguaro Ribs

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) cacti are the most famous and characteristic plants of the Sonoran desert. They are common in Tucson, and the best place to see them here is in the appropriately named Saguaro National Park.

These giant cacti can slowly grow to 50 feet (15.2 m) tall and have up to 50 arms. Saguaros are usually 75 to 80 percent water (90 percent water if fully hydrated) and can weigh up to 7 to 9 tons at mature height with multiple arms. Despite their succulent, water-filled bodies, these cacti are able to reach such remarkable, tree-like heights because they possesses woody, internal support structures.

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) ribs

The Saguaro is supported by a ring of 12 to 30, vertical wooden ribs, which can often be seen still standing after the Saguaro dies and the flesh has fallen away.

Dead Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) next to a living one

Saguaro rib wood is lightweight and fairly soft. It was traditionally used by Native Americans to make crosspieces in baby cradles, splints to bind injured limbs, drill sticks for fire making, and as wattle in the construction of wattle and daub houses. Saguaro ribs are still used today by the Tohono O'odham to make Saguaro fruit harvest (Ha:sañ Bak) poles.

Saguaro ribs are currently quite popular here in Tucson as rustic accents or inlays in Southwestern furniture and décor.