Misreading the Saguaro

One of the more interesting and misunderstood plants in the creation is the Saguaro cactus seen in the desert areas of the American Southwest. Recently I was hiking near Phoenix with Dave Strong, a friend who has lived in desert areas most of his life. I made some kind of comment about how primitive the plant appeared to be and found that the opposite is true.

"Do you know how the Saguaro is pollinated?" Dave asked. I assumed that the usual answer of wind, bees, etc., would apply. "The flowers bloom at night," Dave said, "and the pollinators are bats." Apparently bats that survive on nectar fly at night and visit the Saguaros, thereby pollinating them. The symbiotic relationship between the flowers of the plants blooming at night and bats being the pollinators is too contrived to be a function of chance.

As we climbed through a forest of Saguaros, Dave pointed to an old plant full of holes which stood nearly 20 feet tall. "That plant's about 120 years old," he said. About that time, a bird flew out of one of the holes. The Saguaro is a regular apartment house for all kinds of birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles, as well as a whole entourage of insects. The Saguaro plant itself is remarkably designed for life in dry climates. The inside of the plant is built like an accordion so that there is a huge storage capacity for water when it does rain. The surface is constructed without leaves so little transpiration occurs, conserving water in an efficient way.

To look at a Saguaro, you might feel that you were looking at a primitive liverwort-like plant, but that is a misreading. This is a highly complex and marvelously designed plant that benefits creatures living in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Jan/Feb 1997