Saguaro National Park

Enormous cacti, silhouetted by the setting sun, for most of us the Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. And yet, these majestic plants are only found in a small portion of the United States. Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants, on the edge of the modern City of Tucson.

Saguaro National Park is located within a desert, but contrary to what you might expect, there is an abundance of life. Plants here are adapted to drought, so during long dry periods they are able to go dormant, conserving their water. At these times, many plants appear lifeless, but shortly after a rainfall these plants are able to come to life sprouting new green leaves. If you like green, you will especially enjoy Saguaro National Park during the rainy seasons. Within just 48 hours after a rainfall, the ocotillo plant is able to change from what appeared to be a handful of dead sticks into a cheerful shrub with tall green branches, covered in new leaves.

Growing at Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District are more than 1,162 species of plants ranging from desert vegetation such as cacti, ocotillo, and creosote in the lower elevations all the way to ponderosa pine, oak, and Douglas-fir in the upper elevations of the Rincon Mountains. The Tucson Mountain District is home to 512 species of plants.

The Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park includes terrain from under 2,500 feet elevation to 8,666 feet elevation. The varied elevation within the park’s boundaries allows for a great variety of different species, found in 6 different plant communities. Saguaro National Park is thought to be home to ten species of Threatened, Endangered, or Sensitive plants. Seventy-eight non-native species of plants have made homes in the Rincon Mountain District in recent years, while 47 non-natives have established themselves in the Tucson Mountain District. The Exotic Plant program, with help from volunteers, maps and removes non-native species from both districts of the park.

Threatened: any species (other than a pest species) which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

Endangered: any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range.

The unusual shapes of Sonoran Desert cacti, bright spring wildflowers, and spectacular Arizona sunsets at Saguaro National Park are a photographers dream.

Photo by Joshua Boles-NPS

Did You Know?
Six species of rattlesnakes call the Tucson area their home. They are the Western Diamondback, Tiger, Northern Black-tailed, Mojave, Sidewinder and Arizona Black Rattlesnakes.

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