Cactus relocation 101: TOKA Homes #3

Tohono O’odham Ki:Ki Association’s (TOKA) third Low Income Tax Credit (LIHTC) development is officially underway in Tucson, AZ. The tribe will build 38 new homes and a community building in the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. But before construction could start, we had to deal with a prickly situation.

The development site was home to 200 saguaro and barrel cactuses and 20 pineapple cactuses, an endangered species. To preserve these plants, the contractor made a plan to carefully and strategically relocate all to a new home near the project site, so that they would not be disturbed during construction activities.

It was quite the process, being that all the cactuses were covered in needles, and some are over 10 feet tall.

Great care was made when replanting them to keep their original orientation to the sun the same. If the cactus was rotated, and the side that grew up in the shade now faced the sun, the cactus would get sunburned and could die. I learned that the side of the cactus that faces the sun develops a tougher skin that can protect it from the intense Arizona sun.

After construction is complete, the saguaro and barrel cactuses will be moved back and replanted near the new homes.


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