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What Does the Inside of a Cactus Look Like? Investigating in Saguaro National Park

What Does the Inside of a Cactus Look Like? Investigating in Saguaro National Park

If you’ve ever looked at a large cactus, you have probably pondered the question “what does the inside of a cactus look like?” Β It is hard to look at the spiny, pleated exterior of one and not wonder what is beneath. How does it stand? What does it look like inside? Wonder no longer – I have you covered after our visit to Saguaro National Park in Arizona!

What is in the Inside of a Saguaro Cactus?

spines of a saguaro cactus In the very center, you will see woody ribs that give the cactus stability. After the Saguaro dies, these woody ribs can be used like regular tree wood for building and crafting. Extra stability is achieved through the Saguaro’s root system. Although it does not extend very far into the ground, the roots fan roughly the same length as the cactus’ height.

Around the woody ribs is the spongy flesh. Here’s where the cactus stores water. Did you know that when a fully grown (40 – 60 foot tall) Saguaro cactus is fully hydrated it can weigh 3200 to 4800 pounds? That’s because of all the retained water in this spongy flesh section!

inside of a cactus

Cross Section of a Saguaro Cactus

what does Inside of cactus look like

This dead Saguaro cactus is still standing – note the woody ribs!

  1. Lisa from Gone With The Family 18 April, 2013

    That is really cool! I had wondered what they looked like inside and assumed that it would be mostly hollow for some reason. Was not expecting the spongy flesh at all!

  2. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista 18 April, 2013

    I’m not a big fan of the desert or cactus but this was interesting! I’ve never seen the inside a cactus before πŸ™‚

  3. Average Traveller 18 April, 2013

    Cool – nature’s rebar!

  4. budget jan 18 April, 2013

    Isn’t nature miraculous? Sad to see the dead tree but amazing that it holds that much water.

  5. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} 19 April, 2013

    Very interesting. I wasn’t expecting the woody ribs. I thought it would be 100% spongy flesh.

  6. Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs 19 April, 2013

    My son would love this. I am not a cactus fan πŸ™‚

  7. Kate @Wild Tales of... 19 April, 2013

    Awesome information! I was super surprised to read the weight of a full grown Saguaro–wow!

    • Dred 29 April, 2013

      The epitomy of AZ I love this! Parches my soul just to look at it. I can feel the warmth, what I used to dream about when I lived in Oregon and it would rain all but 4 days out of a month. Thank you

  8. InsideJourneys 19 April, 2013

    Sometimes photos only tell one side of a story. For example, I’ve seen photos of cacti at Saguaro but never realized they grew that tall – 40-60 feet – and had so much water! That cross-section looks massive. Even the dead one looks impressive. I won’t look at cacti the same now.

  9. Rebecca@R We There Yet Mom? 19 April, 2013

    Very cool!

    Thanks for linking up!

  10. Dick Jordan 19 April, 2013

    When you go to a place like Saguaro National Park thousands of these cacti look like a leafless forest of weirdly shaped telephone poles.

  11. MIchelle @ Having Fun in the Texas Sun 20 April, 2013

    Love these enormous cactus! I never knew they could be burned for wood after they dried out!

  12. Tonya {The Traveling Praters} 20 April, 2013

    I had no idea a cactus could weigh that much, or grow that tall! I’m not sure why, but I always pictured them as relatively small, 15 feet tall or so. I was way off!

  13. Photos of Common Types of Cactus Growing in Saguaro National Park, AZ 29 May, 2013

    […] : National Park Service website – Saguaro National Park Previous Post – What Does the Inside of a Saguaro Cactus Look […]

  14. TAY-TAY 25 October, 2013

    That’s amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. TAY-TAY 25 October, 2013


  16. person 23 February, 2015

    umm i wanted to see a ALIVE cactus not a dead rotten one!!!

  17. 29 December, 2017

    It’s really interesting to know how a cactus looks like inside. Unbelievable!