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What Is Arizona's State Flower?

By April S. Kenyon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Arizona’s state flower is the saguaro cactus blossom. The cactus blossom was first adopted in 1901 as the territorial flower of Arizona. It was later designated Arizona’s state flower by an act of the Arizona General Assembly in 1931. The sauaro cactus is the largest cactus that grows in the United States. It is important to note that the blossom of the cactus is recognized as Arizona’s state flower, and not the cactus itself.

The saguaro cactus first made its appearance as a state symbol in 1863, when the state seal was designed by Richard Cunningham McCormick, the first Secretary of the Arizona Territory. While the first design was not well-received, changes authorized by legislature in 1864 resulted in a state seal that depicted a backdrop of mountain scenery with a cactus as the center point in the forefront of the scene. The blossom of the saguaro cactus was officially recognized as Arizona’s state flower on 16 March 1931.

Native to northern Mexico, parts of California, and the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern portion of the United States, the saguaro cactus can live for as many as 200 years. It generally reaches a height of approximately 40 to 50 feet (approximately 12 to 15 meters), and the waxy white blossoms bloom in late May to early June. These giant cacti are slow growing and may take as long as 75 years to produce a side shoot.

The blooms of the saguaro cactus have a waxy feel and a fragrant scent. Blossoms generally appear on the tips of the cactus’ arms, and the cactus may produce blooms for more than a month. Arizona’s state flower is unique in that the blossoms open up at night and close back up by about noon of the next day. In late summer, the closed flowers transform into red fruits that are consumed by the local bird population.

Cross pollination is required for the Saguaro blossoms to flourish and produce its red fruit in late summer. Bats are the primary pollinators of the saguaro cactus flowers, as many of the cactus bloom’s characteristics are geared to the bat population. The nocturnal blooms, height, and durable blossoms make it simple for the bats to feast upon the rich nectar of the plant.

Harming a saguaro cactus in any way is illegal in the state of Arizona. If any saguaro cacti are located in the vicinity where construction is taking place, special precautions must be taken to transplant each cactus before construction can begin. The saguaro cactus is also commonly referred to as sahuara, giant cactus, and pithava.

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