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What is Arizona’s State Flower? History & Facts

suguaro cactus blossom

When we think of Arizona, we often think of a beautiful desert state with stunning landscapes filled with cacti and wildlife. We’ll admit, it’s hard to think of anything else when you imagine the great Grand Canyon State. It should come as no surprise that the state chose a native desert plant for the state flower. You might not think that a cactus can bloom flowers, but one of the natural beauties was named the state flower of Arizona in 1931. The Saguaro Cactus Blossom, which blooms from the unique and imposing Saguaro Cactus, proudly crowns the native cacti that can grow almost over 55 feet tall and live for nearly 200 years.

garden flower divider

The Saguaro Cactus Blossom

The blooms from the Saguaro Cactus have a distinct waxy texture, and some say that their fragrant smell reminds them of melon. The blossoms appear primarily on the tips of the Saguaro’s branches and can last for over a month once blooming. One of the unique things about the cactus blossom is that the flowers primarily open up in the evening and close back by noon the following day. The waxy, white Saguaro Cactus Blossom can even transform into red fruits in the late summer.

cactus blossom
Image Credit: Nate Hovee, Shutterstock

Cactus Blossom Flowering

Unlike a traditional flower, cacti only bloom once they’ve reached their full maturity level, which can take 75 years or more to occur! For a cactus to bloom, the conditions must be exactly right. It has to have had the right amount of water, light exposure, and fertilization to trigger its blossoming maturity levels. The Saguaro Cactus tend to bloom in May and June. A single cactus can have multiple blooms, creating a beautiful display of crowning flowers over 12 feet high.

How Did Arizona Choose Its State Flower?

First adopted in 1901 as a territorial flower, the Saguaro Cactus Blossom has been a part of Arizona’s history since the 1800s. The state flower, which is not the cactus itself but rather the blossom on top of the cactus, made its first appearance as an Arizona symbol in 1836 as the state seal. This seal was designed by Richard Cunningham McCormick, who was the first Secretary of the Arizona Territory before it was a state.

Arizona did not become an official state until 1912, and they officially recognized the Saguaro Cactus Blossom as their state flower in 1931. The General Assembly of Arizona chose the native desert plant as the state flower since it is one of the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert and a symbol of the American Southwest.

Image Credit: TZIDO SUN, Shutterstock

Interesting Facts About the Saguaro Cactus Blossom

Interesting Facts:
  • The peak blooming period is the best time to view these blossoms, from early May to late June.
  • The blossoms have an incredibly short lifespan. They bloom for less than 24 hours.
  • The cactus relies on desert creatures like the long-nosed bat, bees, and birds to help with the pollination process.
  • The blossoms are often described as having an overwhelmingly sweet melon-like scent that acts as a lure to desert wildlife.
  • The pollinated Saguaro blossoms turn into fruit that split open when ripened.
  • The fruit is edible and has religious significance for the Tohono O’odham.
  • Many native plants, including the Saguaro Cactus, are protected by conservation laws and cannot be harvested. If the plants are on private property, you need permission from the landowners to examine them. If the cactus is on public land, you need permission from any government entity involved.

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Featured Image Credit: Jim David, Shutterstock


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