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Cactical Blunder!


I know I have a slam-dunk case, but of course I must do my due diligence. I search “saguaro cactus.” The second link leads me to a solid source: the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. The first line of the museum’s “Saguaro Cactus Fact Sheet” makes my case: “The saguaro cactus ( Carnegiea gigantea) is one of the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert.” A few lines down the page, my case is authoritatively dunked: “Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.”

You now know that my case is fully supported by the facts, but perhaps you don’t know why I’m making it. Here’s why: Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert! We don’t grow saguaro cactus here! They are not, never have been, and never will be “one of the defining plants” of our region.

So, I ask, why am I seeing fake saguaro all over town? They are popping up on street medians, in commercial landscapes, even in my own neighborhood. Every day, as I leave for work in the morning and return home in the evening, I am confronted with a fake saguaro at the entrance to my neighborhood. It’s outrageous!

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Fake desert flora and fauna adorn many street medians in Las Vegas. There are wild horses, bighorn sheep, coyotes, tortoises, rabbits, scorpions, and quail. I have no problem with any of these creatures, which are commonly found in the Mojave Desert and are consistent with the character of our region. Occasionally, you also will see fake yucca and Joshua trees, which also make sense.

But then, for whatever insane reason, saguaro cactuses have been mixed into these median landscapes. Whose brilliant idea was this? What self-respecting landscape architect signed off on the purchase orders that included these abominations?

I recognize that, for some people, the Mojave is not the most beautiful desert on the planet. The Sonoran, for example, is more lush, supporting the saguaro and other plants that can’t hack it in the bone-dry Mojave.

But we should take pride in the Mojave. The plants and animals that survive here are tough. They don’t need no stinkin’ water, or at least not much. I happen to like Joshua trees. We could have more of them on our street medians and in other landscapes. We don’t need to pretty up our city with the flora of other regions.

Besides — this is just my personal opinion and doesn’t have anything to do with my main argument — I think saguaro cactuses are kind of ugly. Arizona can have them.