MESA, Ariz. — "They're like, 'oh yeah, we just cut them and put them straight down,'" Bec Verman with the Tonto National Forest said. "And we're like, excuse me, what?"
It was an idea that never occurred to them. Or, most people involved in cactus conservation.
Apparently, you can cut the bottom off a saguaro, put the cut end about an inch in the ground, water it and the cactus will sprout new roots.
And that one idea may be responsible for saving untold numbers of hurt and dying saguaros.
Verman said climate change and drought are leading to more wildfires breaking out in the deserts. Traditionally, fires burn more in the denser forest areas. But not anymore.
"Saguaros don't come back," Verman said. "The Sonoran Desert ecosystem is not fire-adapted."
Now, thanks to a donation from the Arizona Lottery, conservationists have a saguaro rescue nursery to try and rehabilitate the saguaros that burned.
There are rows of cacti in a remote area near the Salt River in Mesa, all covered in burlap to protect them. Most were rescued from the burn scar of the Bush Fire, which burned the area of Four Peaks in 2020.
And because saguaros can live up to 200 years (no one's really sure), they grow very slowly. When they burn, it takes generations for them to grow again... if any survive at all.
"Once it's gone, it's gone," Verman said. "It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for most of these plants to adapt and adjust."
And that's where the cutting trick comes in. While it's illegal to harm a saguaro in Arizona, the people who save these cacti are allowed to do it in order to save them.
The hope is that these cacti can recover and repopulate the desert.
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