Why are saguaros pleated? The roots of a saguaro grow out from the plant in a radial fashion, several inches under the ground. During a heavy rain, a saguaro will absorb as much water as its root system allows.
To accommodate this potentially large influx of water, the pleats expand like an accordion. Conversely, when the desert is dry, the saguaro uses its stored water and the pleats contract.
Because the majority of a saguaro is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh 6 tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs. The number of ribs inside the plant correspond to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant. As the saguaro grows, the ribs will occasionally fork and the corresponding pleat will also fork at the same place.