Organ Pipe in Fruit
March 21, 2002
This photo of an Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) was taken in Sonora, Mexico. The reddish ornaments at the top of the cactus are mature fruit. These plants have been able to adapt themselves to extreme temperatures, intense sunlight and little rainfall. While other desert plants may have similar features to the spines and succulent stems of cacti, these evolutionary traits are most pronounced in cactus plants. Cacti take advantage of the meager rains that visit deserts by having roots close to the soil surface. Rain water is quickly gathered by root systems and stored in thick, expandable stems for extended periods when rain is especially scare.
The Organ Pipe cactus is the second largest in the U.S. (next to the Saguaro). They can be up to about 24 feet (7.7 m) tall - about half the size of the tallest Saguaro. Instead of having a central stem, a cluster of 5 to 20 branches grow from a point near the ground, curving upwards in graceful arcs.
At maturity, the Organ Pipe fruit open to display an edible red pulp. This fruit has long provided a food source to Native Americans. It can be eaten, made into jelly or fermented into a beverage.