The Cacti of Baja

Did you know that the second largest cactus in the world and the largest in the Peninsula of Baja California Sur is the Elephant Cactus or “Cardon” in Spanish.  This cactus can be found in the states of Baja California North, Baja California Sur and Sonora. The largest cactus is the Saguaro, which is not found in the Baja.  A popular tourist spot to view the giant Elephant cactus is located outside of the coastal town of San Felipe, in a nature park called Valle de Los Gigantes or “Valley of the Giants”. The valley was declared a protected area since 1980 as it is a biological corridor which also protects endangered animals like; eagles, owls, coyotes, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, mountain lions and a variety of snakes.  The elephant cactus is a slow growing cactus that can live for hundreds of years, grow more than 60 feet high and weigh over 20 tons.  The stems have many uses.  The flesh has healing properties such as pain killer and disinfectant.  The inside of the stem has ribs which ranchers have dried to make items such as fishing poles and fences.

The very unique Boojum Tree or “Cirio” in Spanish is almost completely endemic to the Baja California Peninsula (Northern and Southern states) with only a small amount found in the state of Sonora, Mexico.  In Southern Baja in an area referred to as the Catavina desert, you can find the Valley of the Cirios which is a unique cactus sanctuary, home to hundreds of these trees.  The Boojum is a tall, candle like tree with a trunk covered by spiny branches.  It can grow to heights of up to 70 feet and has clusters of tubular yellow flowers that bloom in both summer and autumn.  This tree can survive for up to 5 years with no rainfall.  As this tree does not yield fruit and is mostly hollow inside, there are few uses for it.

Boojum tree image courtesy of Wikpedia

Echinocereus Martimus is an endemic species found along the Western Pacific coast of Baja California.  Growing at lower elevations a few kilometers in-land from the shoreline, it thrives in sandy loam soil (soil composed of sand, silt and clay). This cactus has many branches and forms colonies of cylindrical stems.  During a lengthy blooming season (Spring to Autumn), it’s small, yellow flowers bloom below the stem tips and do not always open completely due to the plants interlaced spines. The spines change color with age.  While young, they are red and then turn yellow fading to grey.

Echinocereus Martimus image courtesy of cactiguide.com

Baja’s unique desert landscapes are home to over 120 species of cactus.  With the majority of precipitation occurring during late summer and early fall, the rains provide an explosion of life.  Meeting Incentive Experts can provide a picturesque guided tour through the nature of the Baja desert during your next program in Los Cabos.

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