Cactus cardon - long version - StudySpanish.com

The Cardon Cactus

We were on the hunt. Traveling south in our rented Ford Festiva with tires of varying ages and treads, I concentrated on staying on the narrow road, trying not to think about our solemn promise to the agency that we would not cross the border. We were after big game. Our quarry was nearly 70 feet tall and weighed up to 25 tons. Some were over 300 years old, and can only be found in mid to lower Baja California. We scanned the horizon for the giant cardon, the largest cactus in the world.

We knew we were close when we spied a roadside memorial to a crash victim that was fashioned in the shape of a cardon. Although they are related to and sometimes mistaken for their southern Arizona cousins, the saguaros, the resemblance between the two lessens with age. The saguaro grows a main trunk with a few side branches, while the cardon grows to a thick trunk with as many as 25 vertical branches, and is significantly larger. Fortunately, they are separated geographically, sparing the proud saguaro the indignity of discovering he is only the second largest cactus in the world.

Along with most of the other columnar cacti of the southwestern deserts, the cardón depends on Bats for pollination. In March through June, the cardon produces flowers that open in the evening and do not close until the next morning, allowing nocturnal nectar sipping bats to feed as they time their northward migration to coincide with the spring flowering. When the bats pass back through the fall, the golf ball sized fruits have fallen to the ground and split open, providing the bats and birds sustenance, even as they distribute the ingested seeds through the area.

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The cactus cardon

We were hunting. Traveling south on our rented Ford Festiva, which had tires of various ages and qualities, I concentrated on staying on the narrow road and not thinking about our promise to the car company that we would not cross the border. We were hunting big game. Our prey was almost 21 meters high and weighed up to 25 tons. Some were up to 300 years old and are only found between the middle and southern Baja California. We scanned the horizon in search of the giant cardon, the world's largest cactus.

We knew that we were approaching when we noticed a monument to a car accident victim by the side of the road. It had the shape of a cardon. Soon we began to see the monsters, that grew in forests called "cardonales". Although related and sometimes confused with their southern Arizona cousins, the saguaros, the resemblance between them diminishes with age. The saguaro develops a main trunk with a few side branches while the cardon has a thick trunk with up to 25 vertical branches and is much larger. Fortunately they are separated geographically, avoiding the proud saguaro humiliation to discover that it is only the second largest cactus in the world. Like most columnar cacti found in deserts from the southwest, the cardon depends on the bats to pollinate. Between March and June, the cardon produces flowers that open at night and do not close until the following morning, allowing bats to sip nectar and make their migration to the north coincide with spring flowering. When bats return in the fall, golf-sized fruit has already fallen to the ground. Then they open, providing sustenance to the bats and birds, which distribute the ingested seeds.