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Organ Pipe Cactus

An Organ Pipe Cactus is a tall, columnar cactus that grows only in the Sonoran Desert. The Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona was created to protect this rare cactus. Since they are quite sensitive to frost, they do best on southern facing slopes below elevations of 3,000 feet. The column-like stems grow from a base just above the ground and can reach 25 feet tall. They usually mature at a height of 15 to 20 feet. The slender, curving vertical stems, resemble the large pipes of an old-fashioned organ.

Like the famous Saguaro, the Organ Pipe cactus needs shade and protection during its seedling stage. This occurs during its first couple years of growth. As an adult, it produces beautiful white or pale lavender flowers. These flowers mostly bloom at night. It also produces large, edible red fruits which ripen late in the Summer. They are sweet, fleshy, and are eaten by a variety of desert wildlife. Native Americans ate the fruit raw or dried it for storage. It also makes a delicious jelly, syrup, or even a wine.

Although it is not officially on the endangered species list, it is protected in the U.S. where it grows naturally only in southwestern Arizona.