Sunday, May 24, 2009

Organ Pipe Cactus

The organ pipe cactus is primarily found in Mexico, but can be found in the U.S. in southern Arizona in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The name presumably comes from the stems which rise vertically from the base with the appearance of pipes on an organ.
The organ pipe is slow growing and does not reach maturity for 150 years.

Most of them have relatively straight stems, but I found some that had the look of octupus arms

or kelp.

A young organ pipe.

A close-up of the ridged skin and spines.

Looking within the cactus. Note the dead stems.

A look at the base. Quite often the base will provide refuge for other animals that use them for shade or to burrow beneath.

A younger stem growing on a more mature tree.

The woody skeleton of a dead organ pipe.

The organ pipe flowers in April, May and June. When I got to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in late May I was disappointed because I thought I was too early for the bloom. Then I heard a ranger at the visitor's center mention that they only bloom at night. Fortunately, I was camped in Alamo campground with an organ pipe very close to my campsite.

The underside of a flower with a ladybug.

A particular organ pipe may only have one or two blooming flowers at a time.

The flowers are pollinated by lesser long-nosed bats.

I was fortunate to see a bat pollinating a flower at my campsite as I was first going to photograph it (I saw it when I flashed my headlamp on the flower). I was quite startled, both to see the bat and to see how large it was (they have a 13 to 15 inch wingspan). Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the bat.

The flowers do stay open for a short time after dawn, but then close up for the day.

Some organ pipes are found on the flats, but they tend to like rocky hillsides. They are often solitary, but occasionally you will see them in bunches.

The presence of these and saguaro cactus make you feel like you are in a real desert. Unfortunately, our California deserts do not have them. They are one of the reasons I like this southern Arizona desert so much.

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