Volunteers Save Cacti and Succulents in Southern AZ

VAIL, Ariz. (KGUN) — It took the strength of seven men to hoist a 1,000-pound barrel cactus into the trunk of a pickup truck. They took him to a better home after growing up in the desert for decades.

“That’s nearly 124,000 plants that we’ve saved,” said Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society President Richard Wiedhopf.

On Sunday in Vail, the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society added dozens more plants to this list.

“We look at the little plants, or the plants that are neglected and took maybe 100 years to grow. We save them,” Wiedhopf said.

The non-profit organization is made up of thousands of volunteers who are passionate about plant preservation. They travel to southern Arizona, find places where new development is coming, get permits and save plants before it’s too late.

“We were originally briefed by the developer, Diamond Ventures. We started our rescues about three or four years ago.” said Donna Ellis, Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society rescue coordinator.

Rescued plants are most often taken to Pima Prickly Park: a seven-acre public wilderness. Others go to residential houses.

“It’s a very special place. The people of Tucson want to make it a special place. They want to preserve the legacy of the Sonoran Desert,” Wiedhopf said.

Helping out is as easy as picking up a shovel.

“You’re not going to stop the growth, so let’s try to do it the best way we can,” Wiedhopf said.

To learn more about the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, click here.

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