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Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. It is commonly known as cardón, a name derived from the Spanish word cardo, meaning "thistle".
Large stands of this cactus still exist, but many have been destroyed as land has been cleared for cultivation in Sonora.
The fruit of this cactus was an important food for the Seri people in Sonora, who call the cactus xaasj.
A symbiotic relationship with bacterial and fungal colonies on its roots allows P. pringlei to grow on bare rock even where no soil is available at all, as the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air and break down the rock to produce nutrients. The cactus even packages symbiotic bacteria in with its seeds.
A Cardon specimen is the tallest living cactus in the world, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m (63 ft), with a stout trunk up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter bearing several erect branches. In overall appearance, it resembles the related saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), but differs in:
fewer ribs on the stems
more heavily branched
branching occurs nearer the base of the stem
areoles and spination differ
the location of the blossoms, lower along the stem
fruit heavily spiny
Its flowers are white, large, nocturnal, and appear along the ribs as opposed to only apices of the stems.
Lifespan and growth
An average mature cardon may reach a height of 10 metres (30 ft), but individuals as tall as 18 metres (60 ft) are known. It is a slow-growing plant  with a lifespan measured in hundreds of years, but growth can be significantly enhanced in its initial stages by inoculation with plant growth-promoting bacteria such as Azospirillum species. Most adult cardon have several side branches that may be as massive as the trunk. The resulting tree may attain a weight of 25 tons.
Field of P. pringlei
With an osprey nest atop
Husk of a fallen fruit
1.^ The tallest living cactus is a specimen of Pachycereus pringlei. The tallest cactus ever measured was an armless Saguaro cactus which blew over in a windstorm in 1986; it was 78 feet tall.
^Puente, M. E.; Y. Bashan; C. Y. Li; V. K. Lebsky (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. I. Root colonization and weathering of igneous rocks". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 629-42. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821100. PMID15375735.
^Puente, M. E.; C. Y. Li; Y. Bashan (September 2004). "Microbial populations and activities in the rhizoplane of rock-weathering desert plants. II. Growth promotion of cactus seedlings". Plant Biology. Stuttgart. 6 (5): 643-50. doi:10.1055/s-2004-821101. PMID15375736.