The Cactus Familyby Edward Anderson, Roger Brown
This long-awaited, monumental work covers the Cactaceae in an encyclopedic manner, addressing 125 genera and 1810 species. The most comprehensive single resource on the subject available today, it includes more than 1000 color photographs in addition to other illustrations.See more details below
This long-awaited, monumental work covers the Cactaceae in an encyclopedic manner, addressing 125 genera and 1810 species. The most comprehensive single resource on the subject available today, it includes more than 1000 color photographs in addition to other illustrations.
- Timber Press, Incorporated
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- 8.81(w) x 11.31(h) x 1.74(d)
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The saguaro, Carnegia gigantea, is one of the most spectacular cacti of the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States, and its significance to Native Americans has long been — and continues to be — of great importance. Extensive studies of this cactus and the people who have used it have been done by Bruhn (1971), Crosswhite (1980), Felger and Moser (1985), and Moerman (1998). There is evidence that the ancient Hohokam and Sinagua, contemporaries of the Anasazi, ate saguaro fruits but also used the ribs from dead stems as roof beams for their stone-walled structures (Cheetham 1994, 18). The Hoholam also created works of art, etching designs on shells, by using saguaro wine that had turned to vinegar (Crosswhite 1980, 53-54).
Legends among other Native American tribes in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where the cactus occurs, indicate a long period of use. Three tribes in this region, who call themselves the O'odham, including the Akimel O'odham (northern River Pima), Tohono O'odham (Papago), and Hiach-eD O'odham (Sand Papago), have a long history with the saguaro cactus. Likewise, the Seri of northwestern Mexico also use the saguaro for a variety of purposes (Felger and Moser 1985, 247-248). Although the record is unclear with regard to the name of the large cactus first observed by Anglos, in 1540 the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his party almost certainly saw the saguaro and groups of Native Americans who "drink the wine made of the pitahaya, which is the fruit of a great thistle which opens like the pomegranate" (Mitich 1972, 119). The term pitahaya was used by the Spanish for several columnar cacti and their fruits, and the name saguaro, also spelled suwarro, first appeared in a report by Colonel W. H. Emory in 1848 on the survey along the United States-Mexico border (Mitich 1972, 122).
Today some of these Native Americans continue to participate in annual activities involving the saguaro, much as they have for generations. In fact, the traditional calendar of the Tohono O'odham is organized around the plant's annual cycle, beginning in late June and early July with the harvesting of fruits. This first month of their year is called Hahshani Mashad, the saguaro (harvest) month (Crosswhite 1980, 14). The saguaro is so important to them that the cacti (Nabhan 1982, 26-27) "are referred to as humans ... You don't do anythng to hurt them. They are Indians." The Tohono O'odham have been bound to this cactus because of their dependence on it for survival. The month in which saguaro fruits are harvested is usually a time of food shortage, so the abundant, fresh, sweet food is especially welcome. The annual harvest of fruits and the making of preserves and wine precede the growing of beans, maize, and squash. Other aspects of Tohono O'odham life parallel those of the saguaro. Their strategy for collecting water for irrigation by digging many shallow, diverging ditches is similar to that of the saguaro, the shallow, spreading roots of which quickly take up water from the infrequent rains (Crosswhite 1980, 8-9). Saguaro wood, particularly the ribs, is used for a varity of purposes as well. The boots of the saguaro, callas structures that form within the stem when woodpeckers cut out their nests, may also be used as containers.
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