Disappearing dead cactus mystery solved
A dead cactus that stood off 29th Street, next to the trail running between Ray Road and Chandler Boulevard in Ahwatukee, gained notoriety after someone, whose identity remains publicly unknown, began decorating it. The cactus became such a source of intrigue, reporter Briana Whitney created a package about it for Arizona’s Family in December 2018.
The late 29th Street Saguaro, as seen February 2, 2019, in Phoenix.
The following year, however, the cactus disappeared.
Local authorities denied involvement.
“I believe the cactus rotted out and fell,” said Mountain Park Ranch Home Owners Association Executive Director Jim Welch in an August 2019 email, adding that the cactus was City of Phoenix property. A City of Phoenix Street Transportation representative, however, said it was not, and that the HOA likely removed it. Maricopa County Assessor’s Office records confirmed the cactus was on City property. The Street Transportation representative then said the office had no record of the removal.
It appeared that the whereabouts of the dead cactus would, like the identity of its decorator, remain a mystery.
However, after the cactus disappeared, the anonymous couturier began decorating a palo verde tree that stands about 105 feet (32 m) north of where the former cactus stood.
While on the trail, I spotted the mask-clad decorator lacing streamers through the palo verde in honor of May Day. I asked the person if they were, in fact, “the decorator.” This person confirmed that they were.
This person confirmed that the City of Phoenix removed the dead cactus in late April 2019, and that they left behind the Easter decorations that adorned the cactus at the time of removal. The decorator also confirmed that they do not work under the cover of night, as local folklore suggests, but during late morning, when children and adults are in school and at work, respectively. However, since the pandemic began, this schedule no longer assures secrecy.
I thanked them for their time and talents, and pledged to respect their wishes by keeping their identity private. Instead, neighbors are encouraged to enjoy the palo verde — "the new dead cactus" — and its seasonal adornments.