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THE THIRST OF THE SAGUARO


How much does a Saguaro drink? Curiosity about Carnegiea gigantea monospecific genus

by: Divulgation division20/02/2013

Symbol of the arid and sunny deserts of Arizona, the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is perhaps the most representative plant of the Cactaceae universe. The nicknames "candelabra cactus" or "giant cactus" allow you to easily intuit its physical characteristics: a columnar and imposing appearance, a colossal height and a masterful look. An adult Saguaro can easily exceed 10 m in height, but the growth is extremely slow: the specimens in the wild can live up to 150 years and can be defined "adults" when are at least 100 years old.

These plants live in hot habitats and have developed a great capacity for heat resistance and adaptation to drought: in the Sonoran desert rainfall does not reach 200 mm per year (consider that the average rainfall in the city of Rome, one of the driest of Italy, is more than 800 mm per year). The summer temperature easily exceeds 40°C and the Saguaro has to resist to dry periods extending for several months.

The plants are then forced to most exploit the short and intense rains of the American deserts and have developed a shallow root system, branched and extended. It is estimated that an adult Saguaro, after a rainfall, is able to absorb up to 800 liters of water: a huge amount, which the plant stores swelling folds of its spongy stem just like an accordion. The covering waxy layer reduces evaporation and allows the plant to survive without water for an entire year. The large amount of water absorbed over the years gets an adult Saguaro weight also more than 10 tons, about the same as an elephant: so, don't say that the water doesn't make you fat!

 

Carnegiea gigantea Carnegiea gigantea

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