Look for a Cactus Skeleton in the Desert

Updated: Aug. 29, 2022

Did you know that you can find skeletons in the desert? Not from animals, but look for a cactus skeleton that is left behind after the plant dies.

Did you know that the desert is full of skeletons? Not the spooky kind, but another type of skeleton….the cactus skeleton!

How does a cactus reproduce?

Saguaro Cactus Skeleton

Now the beautiful, saguaro cactus has a skeleton that is actually highly prized.


As it nears the end of its life, the Saguaro cactus begins to decay.

In the photo above, you can see that the top part of the cactus has fallen, leaving only the bottom still standing.

Here it is close up. The decay is till present as you can see inside. The woody remains of the saguaro are called ‘ribs’ and are what supports the Saguaro cactus.

Native Americans used the Saguaro ‘ribs’ to build roofs, walls and even furniture. Another use was that they would make long poles that they used to knock off the Saguaro fruit, which is edible.

Saguaro are not the only types of cacti that leave behind skeletons.

Why is a cactus covered in spines?

Cholla Cactus Skeleton

A teddy Bear Cholla (above), also has an interesting skeleton.


 Above, you can see a photo of a segment of a Teddy Bear Cholla that is in the process of decaying. You can see the woody cactus skeleton starting to show through.

Cholla skeletons are sometimes used as walking sticks. Artisans also use cholla skeletons to make Southwestern forms of art. Check out 14 cute cactus gifts for cactus lovers.

It is illegal to remove Saguaro and Cholla skeletons from the desert, unless you have permission from the owner. Specimens can sometimes be purchased at certain plant nurseries that specialize in cacti.

So do as I do. Enjoy these cactus skeletons out in the desert and take lots of photos.

Next, discover the desert birds of the Southwest.