Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Organ Pipe Cactus Fruit

It had been seven years since I was last in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, but this year I just took my fourth trip at the end of July. It is also the latest in the summer I've ever been and the monument is a different place in the height of summer. 

What brought me back, primarily, was my desire to see the organ pipe cacti in fruit. On my last trip in mid-June I found one ripe organ pipe fruit, but it was too full of bugs to sample. I knew that many more would be in fruit on this trip. 
This fruit has blown open and the contents have been eaten by birds. I saw a white-winged dove feeding on it, but could not get a photo of it in time. 
The bulbous fruit hangs precariously to the side of the organ pipe arms. 
I was not disappointed. The organ pipe cacti looked very different. I only saw a few flowers, or what would be flowers (they only bloom at night). But I saw much fruit in various stages of development. The fruit starts to grow at the base of the flower, It grows more and more bulbous and the stem of the fruit begins to dry out and looks like a thick fuse on one of those little round bombs you see in cartoons. 
Looking up at fruit. Most of it was near the tops of arms, but some of it was down the sides of the arms. 
I love the variety of cacti in this photo.
Two over-ripe fruit that have lost their contents. Other green fruit continue to grow. 
Two more sans their innards.
I cut this fruit open with a knife and found it to be of decent ripeness. 
The fruit eventually turns a bright red, but by then it has exploded and its contents nibbled out by white-winged doves and other animals, with the remnants falling to the ground. Some fruit was turning orange, a little less far along in the process, but by then it had already spilled its fruit. The trick was to find fruit in those bulbous fruit that were just showing signs of turning color. I had several knives, one real large and one quite small, and I sliced open the fruit looking for ripe innards. I had a couple of tries that revealed unripe fruit, but I also found a number that had nice ripe fruit. 
Some un-ripe fruit. 
This fruit is more ripe and edible, but a bit sour. 

A very ripe fruit that I devoured. 
I scraped up part of the fruit. Note the liquid.
I learned on my last trip that the fruit is initially white inside, then the seeds turn black, then the white starts to turn pinkish and then a dark red. When it was really ripe, it was quite slushy, almost like any Icee, full of moisture. When less ripe it was sour. But as it fully ripened it lost its sour taste and got sweeter, but still very mild. The texture and looks reminded me of water melon. 

I had an opportunity to talk to an Ajo resident up Alamo Canyon. He told me of a friend that made a batch of ice cream using organ pipe fruit and saguaro fruit. He said it was delicious. 

The organ pipe in fruit may be the coolest of all the flowering plants. It was worth the trip. 


  1. They look like an alien species to me. Very freaky.

  2. The fruit looks almost like a fungus growing on the cactus.

  3. Hello! Where is this located? My parents are familiar with this fruit from their home town and have not tried one in over 20Yrs. I would love to have them eat one again.