The saguaro has been described as the monarch of the Sonoran Desert, as a prickly horror, as the supreme symbol of the American Southwest, and as a plant with personality. It is renowned for the variety of odd, all too human shapes it assumes, shapes that inspire wild and fanciful imaginings. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet in this cactus forest, which covers the valley floor, rising into the Rincon and West Tucson mountains. Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. Preserved along with it are many other members of the Sonoran Desert community, other cacti, desert trees and shrubs, and animals. In lushness and variety of life the Sonoran Desert far surpasses all other North American deserts and yet paradoxically, it is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. Summer midday temperatures commonly climb above 100 degrees F. Less than 12 inches of rain fall in a typical year. Between summer and winter rainy seasons, it is not unusual for months to pass without a drop of rain. The plants and animals able to survive this environment, with adaptations specially designed for desert survival, make up one of the most interesting and unusual collections of life in the United States.