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Plants: Species

Cactus: Elephant, or Giant Mexican Cactus Pachycereus pringlei

FAMILY: CACTACEAE (Cactus Family)

A familiar sight in cartoons, movies, and paintings, some of the most widely recognized cacti are columnar branching species like the elephant cactus Pachycereus pringlei and the saguaro Carnegiea gigantea. Standing upright from 50 to 70 feet (15 to 21 meters) like tall desert sentries, these cacti put down tap roots deep into the soil to hold their weight, which can be up to 10 tons (10.1 tonnes). Other roots spread out from the trunk to form an extensive system just under the soil surface, and these roots absorb even slight precipitation, like night dew or fog, an essential adaptation in a harsh environment.

The seeds of these cactus species are high in oil content and were roasted and eaten by Native American tribes, and their flowers are visited by a variety of hungry pollinators, including beetles by day and bats by night.