Almost everyone would love to have a Saguaro in their front yard. If planning to buy a Saguaro, be sure to buy the plant from a reputable dealer. Be careful if someone comes by your house in a truck with a Saguaro and offers to sell it at a cheap price. This may be a plant that has been stolen from the desert. You do not want to buy this plant.
Various reports have indicated that National Park Service officials plan to embed microchips in Arizona’s Saguaros. The Saguaro is Arizona’s signature plant. The plan to embed chips is being put into place to protect these stately plants from thieves who rip them from the desert and attempt to sell them to landscapers, nurseries and homeowners. The primary objective is deterrence, but the chips also will aid in tracking down and identifying stolen Saguaros. A microchip will be used like those implanted to identify dogs and other pets – smaller than a dime. The chip will be inserted an inch deep into the plant with a large syringe. A special wand can identify that the chip is in the plant.
Tagging is done in state parks and land. Last year at Saguaro National Park, outside of Tucson, 17 Saguaros were dug up and stashed for transportation later. The culprits were caught. There are also other cases where three to five plants have been taken at a time.
Saguaro plants are Arizona’s treasures. They can take 50 years to flower and 70 years before sprouting an arm.
The plants that have been stolen typically are relatively young and small in the 4- to 7-foot range. This means they are about 30 to 50 years old. The thieves might be able to sell them for $1,000 or more. Plants that size would usually fit in the back of a pickup truck and can be covered over. Saguaros any larger require heavy equipment to lift and larger vehicles to haul them.