Quick, close your eyes and picture in your mind a cactus.
Okay, do you have it? We bet most of you visualized a tall green prickly version with a few "J" shaped appendages "arming" out from both sides, right? As the most recognizable cactus in the world, it is interesting that the Saguaro is actually one of this species' rarer breeds. And, as North America's hottest desert, Tucson's Sonoran is the only locale in the world where the giant Saguaro grows.
Reaching heights exceeding 50-feet and weights of 10-tons, the Saguaro's life expectancy is 200-years. While its wildly branching arms are its most familiar feature, the first of these appendages does not typically debut until age 65. And, as a true late bloomer, this massive cactus takes an average of 5 years to grow its first 5 inches.
Survival in the desert is all about water storage and the Saguaro's complex network of roots allows it to flourish. Branching out more than 50-feet wide of its base and never dipping more than 3-feet beneath the earth's surface, this shallow but sprawling system endows the king of the cactus world the ability to soak water from even the briefest rains, storing up to 200 gallons at a time.
Come to think of it, the Saguaro's life cycle is very similar to a marathon experience. You start off slowly, and progressively become faster; you drink and store plenty of water throughout the race; and toward the finish, your arms flail with reckless abandon.