I have been working on this project since May 6th, which is one reason why I’m giving it the theme “complex.” So many of the photos were not working… I finally decided that the only way to catch the blossom was to drag my ladder over to the nearest Saguaro right after my morning coffee (o.k. light might have been better before coffee but I’m just not that fanatical, yet). I used the ladder first with the “old” camera and then again with the “new” camera.
Saguaro Cactii are actually quite complex even without me trying to photogragh them.
ISO 80; f/4; 1/800 13.7mm 8:54am May 15,2010
Saguaro Cactus in Bloom at Tyson Wells
Saguaro Cactus are native to the Sonoran Desert only, which ranges from the extreme southeastern California, southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico — not that the desert does not care about International borders! (Note that this plant does not grow in Texas, even though Old El Paso uses it to brand its products.)
Saguaro are the largest cactus in the US but only grow about an inch a year. It can take the Saguaro cactus 10 years to reach one foot height. They don’t begin to blossom until they are about 8 feet (2.5 meters) tall, which is sometime after 40 years. They do not develop their first arm until they are about 19 feet (6 meters) tall which is around 65 years of age. The largest plants, with more than 5 arms, are estimated to be 200 years old. An average old Saguaro would have 5 arms and be about 30 feet tall.
ISO 80; f/5.8; 1/800 28.5mm 7:42am May 15,2010
Tiny Bees in Saguaro Cactus Blossom
(did some burning, and Definition painting on the blossom)
The 3-inch flowers bloom in May and June (so I still have time to improve these shots). Not all the flowers bloom at the same time, in fact, only a few of the 200 flowers open each night, secreting nectar into the tubes and awaiting pollination. The blooms close by midday, never to open again.
ISO 80; f/8; 1/640 13.7mm 7:35am May 25,2010
Normal sized bees in a Saguaro Cactus Blossom (from ladder)
Saguaro Flowers are “self incompatible” thus require cross pollination. Large quantities of pollen are required for complete pollination and if successful the fruit will appear soon after.
Although there are always lots of bees around the blossoms, bats are the primary night time pollinators (I guess I should be working on some night photos!) and Doves are the primary daytime pollinator (I have not seen this!).
ISO 80; f/5.8; 1/320 28.5mm 6:58am May 21,2010
Canon SD950IS (from ladder)
Bee inspecting an unopened Saguaro Bloom (from ladder)
One of the things that I find interesting is how this blooms just seem to poke out of anywhere on the cactus… like a zit on a teenager (ewww, did I say that?). There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.
ISO 80; f/8; 1/320 64.7mm 7:37am May 25, 2010
Canon SX10 (from ladder)
Bees approaching a Saguaro Cactus Blossom (from ladder)
The slow growth and great capacity of the Saguaro to store water allow it to flower every year, regardless of rainfall. When water is absorbed , the outer pulp of the Saguaro can expand like an accordion, increasing the diameter of the stem and, in this way, can increase its weight by up to a ton.
ISO 80; f/5.7; 1/500 100mm 7:39am May 24,2010
Saguaro Cactus Blossoms shot from the ground with zoom lens
The ruby red fruit ripen in June and each fruit contains minimum 2000 seeds (some sources say 4000 seeds). Hopefully I can continue this story next month…