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A 200-year-old Saguaro cactus has fallen due to a powerful monsoon

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For around 200 years, a special saguaro cactus stood tall in the Arizona desert. Its longest arms stretched almost 30 feet into the air. And now that desert giant has fallen. Its trunks have splintered. And its large arms lay sprawled on the ground.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Steve Haas, the park manager at Catalina State Park, says monsoon rains likely led to its demise.

STEVE HAAS: Mid-June through now, we've had about 12 1/2 inches of rain. And so it was very wet. It was very windy.

MARTINEZ: These slow-growing succulents can take seven years to reach a height of six feet. And though the death of this giant is sad news for some, it still has a role to play.

HAAS: The coolest part about it is, you know, as it rots over the next decades, you know, it's going to provide habitat. It's going to provide food. It's going to provide shelter for all sorts of creatures.

MARTIN: The remains of the cactus will stay where they are, full of holes from gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens. This saguaro fell just a few weeks after a bacterial infection killed another iconic saguaro known as Strong Arm, which lived to 150 years.

MARTINEZ: In spite of the recent loss of these two beloved desert icons, Haas notes that many others are still standing strong.

HAAS: There's a lot of younger ones here. And, you know, they grow so slowly. But it's neat to see a mix of - you want some old ones. But then you want a lot of regeneration, a lot of young saguaros.

MARTINEZ: Haas says saguaro are special in every season and in every season of their lives.

HAAS: When it's really hot, you know, that's when they send out their flower. And so then you have bats that pollinate it and birds that pollinate it. And then - you know, and then when they drop their fruit come monsoon season, all those red, little seeds, you know, everybody uses those seeds in terms of eating them. And, yes, it's sad that it fell. But now it's even providing more habitat for critters and stuff.

MARTINEZ: So the saguaro will slowly return to the soil right where it stood all that time along the Romero Ruins.

(SOUNDBITE OF NAIM AMOR'S "STUCK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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