Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata


Succulentopedia

Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata (Crested Saguaro)

Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata (Crested Saguaro) is a Saguaro with one difference. It has a crested form usually found on the growing tip…


Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata - garden

Origin and Habitat: Primarily in Arizona and in southern California just west of the Colorado River, south into Sonora, Mexico.
Altitude: From nearly sea level to approximately 1350 metres above sea level

Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata P.V.Heath
Calyx 2(3): 108 (1992).

Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose
J. New York Bot. Gard. ix. 188 (1908).
Synonymy: 3

  • Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose
    • Cereus giganteus Engelm.
    • Pilocereus giganteus (Engelm.) Rümpler
Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea f. aberrans P.V.Heath
Calyx 2(3): 108 (1992).

Description: The standard saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, long popular because of its immense size and unique architecture is, perhaps, the more famous of all cacti. It is a large, tree-like columnar cactus that develops a sturdy trunk and with time can produce numerous arm-like branches. In nature Carnegiea gigantea has produced some extraordinary fan or twisting crested forms growing at the top of 3-4 (or more) metres tall trunks. These beautiful crested forms (Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata) are very rare in collection and highly priced for their sculptural shape and size. Older crested plant grown outdoor in the ground (in mild areas) can reach an imposing size (up to 3 (or more) m tall weighing several tons.
Habit. The saguaro is a large, treelike, columnar, perennial succulent. It usually attains the height of about 9 metres, but exceptionally it can tower as high as 16 metres and , dwarfing every other living thing in the desert. The morphological behaviour of Carnegiea gigantea is also quite remarkable. It shows a marked dimorphism. In its juvenile (or sterile) stage it forms a green, cylindrical solitary columnar stem up to 3 metres tall, mostly with 11-15 stem ribs. The areoles are separate, spaced about 2-3 cm apart on the ribs, with 15-30, stout, rigid spines, grey to blackish, diverging, straight the longer central of which (3,5-) 5,5-11 cm long and (0,8) 1,1-2,3 mm in diameter, these areoles not producing flowers. In mature (Adult or fertile) stage it start branching forming stems with shallow, blunt ribs often 19-25. Areoles closely set with flexible, bristly spines 2,2-3 cm long and 0,3-0,4 mm, producing flowers. First branches usually arising in the region of transition between the juvenile and mature part, the branches fertile. The flowers and fruits are found only on the adult bristly branches, high enough to escape the grazing of herbivores.
Stems: Columnar, green, 30-75 cm in diameter, unbranched, erect, and straight with (on older plants) one to several branches originating 2-3 m above the base. Stem tissue turning black when cut or injured. The vertical ribs enable Carnegiea stems to expand as moisture is absorbed and to contract as it is used.
Flowers: White and showy 8,5-12,5 cm long, 5-6 cm in across, opening in late afternoon and remaining open until the midday or later of the following day depending on temperature, then closing permanently, funnelform to bell-shaped, with creamy white petals around a dense group of yellow stamens. Pericarpel and floral tube 6-10 cm long, covered with many distinct scales, extending down and clasping, and felted areoles. Though normally found at the end of the main trunk and arms just below the stem tips, flowers may also occur down the sides of the plant. First buds emerging on south or south-west side of the stems. Flowers will continue to be produced throughout a saguaro's lifetime. A stem might produce more than 100 flowers at a time! The saguaro has more stamens per flower than any other cactus flower. To set fruit, flowers must receive pollen from another plant or from flowers on another arm of the same plant
Fruits: Obovoid, with scales, spine-less (or occasionally with a few bristly spines), 5-7,5(-10) cm long, 2,5–4,4 cm in diameter, fleshy, green, red or purple at maturity, dehiscent and splitting open, along three or four vertical lines, exposing the bright red interior, the pulp juicy, bright red, sweet, and edible.
Phenology: Flowers appear from late April to early June. Fruits ripen from late May until mid July while stems grow mostly during rainy periods in July, August, and September.
Seeds: Obovoid, 1,8-2,1 mm long, dark red-brown to blackish, shiny, nearly smooth, and edible.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Carnegia gigantea group

  • Carnegiea gigantea" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/6374/Carnegiea_gigantea'> Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose : The saguaro is probably the most famous columnar cactus in the world. It may live at least 150 years can attain the grandest sizes, towering as high as 15 m or more and weighing 10 tons, sometimes more, dwarfing every other living thing in the desert.
  • Carnegiea gigantea f. aberrans P.V.Heath : Mostrus form (less known)
  • Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/6378/Carnegiea_gigantea_f._cristata'> Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata P.V.Heath : This is one of largest crested succulent known, it is an example of a natural but rare occurrence (1 in 250,000), in which the growing tip of the plant becomes a line instead of a point, causing a fan shape to develop.

Notes: The cause of cresting is not fully explained biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of lightning strike or freeze damage, but whatever the stimulus, the growth point of the stem has switched from a geometric point, to a line, which folds and undulates as the crest expands. Though these crested saguaros are somewhat rare (1 in 250,000), cresting occurs naturally throughout the range of the Saguaro, and can be encountered in many other cactus species.
In the ontogenesis a crest can appear any time, but development of crests on large columnar cactus species ( such as the saguaro Carnegia gigantea) in the early stages of ontogenesis is unlikely. On the other hand, small species may crest early already at the cotyledons stage.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures:
1) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
2) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
3) David R Hunt Nigel P Taylor Graham Charles International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
4) Clive Innes “Complete Handbook of Cacti and Succulents” Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 01/Dec/1981
5) Urs Eggli, Leonard E. Newton: “Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names” Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 2010
6) N. L. Britton, J. N. Rose: “The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family.” Volume II, The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington 1920
7) Stanley Desmond Smith, R. K. (Russell K.) Monson, Jay Ennis Anderson “Physiological ecology of north american desert plants: with 86 figures and 21 tables” Springer, 1997
8) Warren F. Steenbergh, Charles H. Lowe “Ecology of the saguaro, II: reproduction, germination, establishment, growth, and survival of the young plant” Volume 2 National Park Service, 1977
9) G. E. Wickens “Ecophysiology of Economic Plants in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” Springer, 02/set/1998
10) United States. Forest Service, F. T. Bonner, Robert P. Karrfalt “The woody plant seed manual” Government Printing Office
11) Richard Stephen Felger, Matthew Brian Johnson, Michael Francis Wilson “The Trees of Sonora, Mexico” Oxford University Press, 2001


Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata Photo by: Cactus Art
Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata Photo by: Cactus Art
Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata Photo by: Cactus Art

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Cultivation and Propagation: Saguaros grow very slowly and are cold intolerant. Make sure that your saguaros are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or they may die. The plant needs a well drained soil mix. Water regularly in summer, but allow to dry fully before watering again. During the winter months they should be rather kept dry. Since they are big sized plants, they need plenty of space for their roots. Repotting should be done every other year, or when the plant has outgrown its pot. Exposure: Light shade when young, full sun later.
Propagation: Grafting, since cutting root hardly.


Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata - garden

Origin and Habitat: Primarily in Arizona and in southern California just west of the Colorado River, south into Sonora, Mexico.
Altitude: From nearly sea level to approximately 1350 metres above sea level
Habitat: Sonoran Desert, where in the range is limited by freezing temperatures in winter. They are generally found growing on dry rocky slopes, upper bajadas, and well drained flats. Dense stands some-times grow on sandy flats (as near Los Vidrios, Sonora). Saguaros growing higher than 1100 m are usually found on south-facing slopes where freezing temperatures are less likely to occur, or are shorter in duration. Like many Sonoran Desert cacti, Carnegiea depends largely on warm-season rain, and west of the Colorado River, the amount of summer rain drops too low for survival. Because the mature plants use little if any soil moisture when temperatures are low, the increased winter rainfall to the west does not compensate for the dry summers.
Ecology: Bats visit the flowers at night and bees, other insects, and birds visit them during the day. Seeds are shed near the start of the summer rainy period. Dispersal agents include coyotes, peccaries, and doves. As with other large cacti, saguaros characteristically begin life beneath desert shrubs and trees, especially legumes such as Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota) and Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) which serve as nurse plants. However, in dryer areas the usual nurse plants are absent and saguaros begin life beneath white bursage (Ambrosia Mimosa), grasses, and even desert club-cholla (Opuntia kunzei). The same ares support many endemic succulents and xerophyte plants such as Ferocactus emoryi, Ferocactus acanthodes, Stenocereus thurberi, Lophocereus schottii, Opuntia fulgida, Opuntia leptocaulis, Opuntia acanthocarpa, Opuntia engelmannii, Echinocactus polycephalus, Echinocereus engelmannii, Fouquieria macdougalii, Fouqueria splendens, Prosopis velutina and Larrea tridentata.

Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose
J. New York Bot. Gard. ix. 188 (1908).
Synonymy: 3

  • Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose
    • Cereus giganteus Engelm.
    • Pilocereus giganteus (Engelm.) Rümpler
Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea f. aberrans P.V.Heath
Calyx 2(3): 108 (1992).

Accepted name in llifle Database:
Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata P.V.Heath
Calyx 2(3): 108 (1992).

Description: The giant saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea (Occasionally misspelled "Carnegia"), long popular because of its immense size and unique architecture is, perhaps, the more famous of all cacti. It is the most well-known of a group of spectacular columnar cacti from the Sonoran Desert that includes the cardons (Pachycereus pringlei), the organ-pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) and senita (Lophocereus schottii).
Root: Has a shallow root system with small roots radiating out the height of the cactus and the some. No taproot.
Habit. It is a large, treelike, columnar, perennial succulent that has one or more founded arms from a single, thick trunk. It usually attains the height of about 9 metres, but exceptionally it can tower as high as 16 metres and weighing more than 10 tons, dwarfing every other living thing in the desert. The morphological behaviour of Carnegiea gigantea is also quite remarkable. It shows a marked dimorphism. In its juvenile (or sterile) stage it forms a green, cylindrical solitary columnar stem up to 3 metres tall, mostly with 11-15 stem ribs. The areoles are separate, spaced about 2-3 cm apart on the ribs, with 15-30, stout, rigid spines, grey to blackish, diverging, straight the longer central of which (3,5-) 5,5-11 cm long and (0,8) 1,1-2,3 mm in diameter, these areoles not producing flowers. In mature (Adult or fertile) stage it start branching forming stems with shallow, blunt ribs often 19-25. Areoles closely set with flexible, bristly spines 2,2-3 cm long and 0,3-0,4 mm, producing flowers. First branches usually arising in the region of transition between the juvenile and mature part, the branches fertile. The flowers and fruits are found only on the adult bristly branches, high enough to escape the grazing of herbivores.
Stem (trunk): Columnar, green, 30-75 cm in diameter, unbranched, erect, and straight with (on older plants) one to several branches originating 2-3 m above the base. Stem tissue turning black when cut or injured. The vertical ribs enable Carnegiea stems to expand as moisture is absorbed and to contract as it is used.
Flowers: White and showy 8,5-12,5 cm long, 5-6 cm in across, opening in late afternoon and remaining open until the midday or later of the following day depending on temperature, then closing permanently, funnelform to bell-shaped, with creamy white petals around a dense group of yellow stamens. Pericarpel and floral tube 6-10 cm long, covered with many distinct scales, extending down and clasping, and felted areoles. Though normally found at the end of the main trunk and arms just below the stem tips, flowers may also occur down the sides of the plant. First buds emerging on south or south-west side of the stems. Flowers will continue to be produced throughout a saguaro's lifetime. A stem might produce more than 100 flowers at a time! The saguaro has more stamens per flower than any other cactus flower. To set fruit, flowers must receive pollen from another plant or from flowers on another arm of the same plant
Fruits: Egg shaped, with scales, spine-less (or occasionally with a few bristly spines), 5-7,5(-10) cm long, 2,5–4,4 cm in diameter, fleshy, green, red or purple at maturity, dehiscent and splitting open, along three or four vertical lines, exposing the bright red interior, the pulp juicy, bright red, sweet, and edible.
Phenology: Flowers appear from late April to early June. Fruits ripen from late May until mid July while stems grow mostly during rainy periods in July, August, and September.
Seeds: Obovoid, 1,8-2,1 mm long, dark red-brown to blackish, shiny, nearly smooth, and edible.
Chromosome number n = 11.
Remarks: Saguaro and cardon (Pachyrereus pringlei), the two largest cacti in the Sonoran Desert, often occur together in western Sonora. Saguaros generally initiate branches higher off the ground and the mature stems are green rather than glaucous. Pachyrereus pringlei is a stouter, more massive plant that branches closer to the ground and has fewer (10-15) vertical ribs. The young plants, however, may be difficult to distinguish.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Carnegia gigantea group

  • Carnegiea gigantea" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/6374/Carnegiea_gigantea'> Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose : The saguaro is probably the most famous columnar cactus in the world. It may live at least 150 years can attain the grandest sizes, towering as high as 15 m or more and weighing 10 tons, sometimes more, dwarfing every other living thing in the desert.
  • Carnegiea gigantea f. aberrans P.V.Heath : Mostrus form (less known)
  • Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/6378/Carnegiea_gigantea_f._cristata'> Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata P.V.Heath : This is one of largest crested succulent known, it is an example of a natural but rare occurrence (1 in 250,000), in which the growing tip of the plant becomes a line instead of a point, causing a fan shape to develop.

Notes: A saguaro's growth is extremely slow. After 15 years, the saguaro may be barely 30 cm tall tall. At about 30 years saguaros begin to flower and produce fruit. By 50 years-old the saguaro can be as tall as 2 m.. After about 75 years on average, it may sprout its first branches, or "arms". By 100 years the saguaro may have reached 7,5 m. An adult saguaro is generally considered to be about 125 years of age. Saguaros may live at least 150 years. Giant Saguaros attain the grandest sizes, towering as high as 15 m or more. Saguaros rank among the largest of any cactus or desert plant in the world. The average life span of a saguaro is at least 150 - 175 years of age. However, biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years. One of the largest saguaros known to exist possessed these amazing statistics: It lived 300 years, was over 12 m tall, had 45 arms, and weighed 13 tons! One saguaro produces tens of thousands of seeds in a year, and as many as 40 million in a lifetime of 175 to 200 years, but out of all the seeds that a saguaro produces in a lifetime, few will survive to adulthood.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures:
1) "Saguaro Cactus Definition, Facts and Info" www.saguarocactus.net Downloaded on 09 February 2014.
2) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
3) David R Hunt Nigel P Taylor Graham Charles International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
4) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
5) Urs Eggli, Leonard E. Newton: “Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names” Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 2010
6) N. L. Britton, J. N. Rose: “The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family.” Volume II, The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington 1920
7) Stanley Desmond Smith, R. K. (Russell K.) Monson, Jay Ennis Anderson “Physiological ecology of north american desert plants: with 86 figures and 21 tables” Springer, 1997
8) Warren F. Steenbergh, Charles H. Lowe “Ecology of the saguaro, II: reproduction, germination, establishment, growth, and survival of the young plant” Volume 2 National Park Service, 1977
9) G. E. Wickens “Ecophysiology of Economic Plants in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” Springer, 02/set/1998
10) United States. Forest Service, F. T. Bonner, Robert P. Karrfalt “The woody plant seed manual” Government Printing Office
11) Richard Stephen Felger, Matthew Brian Johnson, Michael Francis Wilson “The Trees of Sonora, Mexico” Oxford University Press, 2001
12) Linda Runyon "The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide" Lulu.com, 01/Apr/2009
13) Clive Innes “Complete Handbook of Cacti and Succulents” Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 01/Dec/1981
14) Burquez Montijo, A., Butterworth, C., Baker, M. & Felger, R.S. 2013. Carnegiea gigantea. In: IUCN 2013. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." Version 2013.2. . Downloaded on 09 February 2014.


Carnegiea gigantea and Lophocereus schottii (on the back at left) Photo by: Raimondo Paladini
Carnegiea gigantea, Roosvelt Lake, Arizona, Usa. Photo by: Raimondo Paladini
Carnegiea gigantea Photo by: Cactus Art

Carnegiea gigantea

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The Carnegiea gigantea is indigenous to Arizona and southern California (west of the Colorado River). This species is also native to northern Mexico. Slow growing, the Carnegiea gigantea will eventually reach a mature height of approximately 40' with a width of 15'. As time passes, it will begin to form glorious, branching arms. Its ribs form closely together and are protected by durable, light brown colored spines.

The Carnegiea gigantea sports large white flowers (approximately 4" wide). Its flowers open in the late afternoon. They remain open until midday (or later), of the following day. Just how long this cactus' flowers stay open depends on the temperature. Once they close, they do so permanently.

The Carnegiea gigantea is one of the largest tree-cacti found on Earth! This cactus is likely one of the most (if not the most), famous species known in the Cactaceae family. Do you recall those massive cacti that Looney Tunes' Wile E. Coyote had the misfortune of running into? Yeah, those are Carnegiea gigantea cacti and Mr. Coyote is one unlucky guy.

1. Excellent choice as a landscape or patio plant
2. Suitable for xeriscaping
3. Where open air cultivation is not possible, this species can be cultivated in a pot
4. Great candidate for greenhouses that are not temperature controlled

1. Edible, sweet and delicious
2. Fruit can be consumed raw
3. Husks and seeds are often boiled/baked
4. Fruits and seeds are used to make syrup and jam
5. Dehydrated fruit pulp can be used to make flour, oil, soft drinks, wine and vinegar
6. For a longer shelf life, fruit can be dried and stored
7. Fruits have been traditionally consumed by Sonoran Desert peoples (i.e., Papago Native Americans)

1. Surprisingly tough, durable and lightweight
2. Harvested for construction purposes

1. Traditionally used for the treatment of rheumatism (always consult a licensed medical professional before using a plant to treat a medical condition)


Plants→Carnegiea→Crested Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea 'Cristata')

Also sold as:
Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Water Preferences: Dry
Soil pH Preferences: Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Slightly alkaline (7.4 – 7.8)
Plant Height : up to 50 feet (16 meters)
Fruit: Showy
Edible to birds
Fruiting Time: Spring
Late spring or early summer
Flowers: Showy
Nocturnal
Flower Color: White
Bloom Size: 2"-3"
Flower Time: Late spring or early summer
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Edible Parts: Fruit
Eating Methods: Raw
Miscellaneous: With thorns/spines/prickles/teeth

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