cactus as a tree?

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sat Mar 10 08:00:00 UTC 2012

As it turns out, Wikipedia ( classifies saguaro as a tree.

According to Wikipedia (, the scientific difference between a tree and a non-tree plant is that a tree has wood. And I think that kind of makes sense in English, too. We imagine plants as having more delicate stems while trees have trunks with bark.

Probably because of the wood property, though, trees grow larger than plants, so we also have this image of trees being larger so that large plants seem like trees. 

So I would think there are a number of taxa that some people call trees and other call plants.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

On Mar 9, 2012, at 11:18 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> Just a quick note. A quick search for "saguaro tree" gets over 3000 raw
> ghits, but virtually all of them are attached to images or are in
> captions for images.
> There is one interesting exception here
> In this case, it is a "tree that's trying to be a cactus" rather than a
> cactus trying to be a tree. Actually, the cactus resemblance is purely
> superficial.
> I did not dig very deep in the search results, so the expression may
> creep up in straight text further down. But, I thought it was worthy of
> a comment before everyone jumps in and tells me I was wrong.
>     VS-)
> On 3/10/2012 2:12 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> Even though Tim Egan qualifies it as a description objected to by
>> some, I am wondering if there is /anyone/ who would consider a cactus
>> a tree. This is not a "technically, tomato is a fruit" issue. So,
>> technically, "technically" is also wrong here IMO.
>>> The saguaro cactus, with its droopy, anthropomorphic limbs, is the
>>> signature tree of the Southwest, though some say it is not
>>> technically a tree.
>> Is Egan just making this up or am I being uninformed?

The American Dialect Society -

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