Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mother of thousands

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When I was a young lad growing up in Kingsville, Texas, my wise old grandmother gave me a little plot of land in a bad location where I could have my own little garden. Since it was such a bad location (no rain and very hot), I determined that the best things to grow in my little garden were cactus and succulents.

Cactus didn’t appeal to my wise old grandmother because of the thorns. However, she told me I could grow what I wanted.

I went with a friend and his parents down to McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, one weekend to pick some cactus and succulents from a cactus farm there. That was in 1967. I came home that day with an interesting plant that has now been in my gardens for 45 years. It was a Kalanchoe daigremontiana, and what attracted me to it were the little plantlets growing along the edges of all its leaves (see Wikipedia). One of its common names is mother of thousands. Each little plantlet that falls off the leaves grows into its own plant, so after a couple of years, you could indeed have many thousands of plants.

Many plants that reproduce by vegetative propagation don’t bloom since they don’t need seeds. I had never seen the mother of thousands bloom until a couple of days ago when I was exploring my own neighborhood here, a neighborhood where I have lived for five years. The mother of thousands also has thousands of blossoms on a stalk with a huge inflorescence, and I found several of them blooming. I wondered what it took to get them to bloom, but Wikipedia says that flowering occurs sporadically if at all.

Following are four pictures of the many blossoms on the inflorescence — side, top, bottom, and dead flowers covered with raindrops.

Mother of thousands flower head from the side

Mother of thousands flower stalk from the top

 

Mother of thousands flower stalk from below

 

Mother of thousands dead flowers covered with raindrops

 

The mother of thousands is native to Madagascar, and all parts of the plant are poisonous. Pets generally know this, but inquisitve youth who are still in the put-anything-in-their-mouths stage might find the little leaf plantlets tasty.

Courtesy of Margaret Rome, a real estate agent in Baltimore, Maryland, I was reminded by a phone call while I was writing this post that today would have been my wise old grandmother’s 101st birthday; she died in 2003. If you want to buy or sell a home in the Baltimore area, do it with Margaret Rome!

 

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Synchronized bees

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As I was wandering around the neighborhood yesterday after the rains, I found a beautiful yard of yellow oxalis, a plant that many people (including me!) consider a weed. However, when you get a whole yard of it in bloom, it can look quite beautiful.

Unfortunately, the bees also happen to like it when it blooms. Taking pictures of bees is the one time when I don’t bother composing the picture. I shoot and run, just in case the sound of the shutter happens to irritate them.

Here is yesterday’s synchronized bees:

Synchronized bees

 

That picture, as out of focus as it is, was taken with a Sigma 50mm macro lens, which meant I had to get close to them, too close for comfort since my fingers, eyes, nose…. were closer to them than I wanted to be. Even though they were pretty busy gathering pollen, I didn’t want them to think that I was invading their food source.

I’m thinking about going back tomorrow with my 300mm lens so I don’t have to get so close to them!

 

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

It’s worth getting off the highways and main side roads

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My main vocation is as a home inspector, so I do a lot of traveling from property to property. Whenever I’m out, I’m always looking for picture-worthy possibilities.

Since my inspection this morning was just a couple of miles from me, I chose to take the neighborhood streets rather than the highway and main side roads. I found a most beautiful aloe but couldn’t stop to take pictures, so I made a note of the address and stopped back by on the way home. Here is the aloe:

Aloe growing in La Mesa, California, January 24, 2012

  

I was particularly happy today because it rained last night and into mid-morning. That allowed me to focus on the raindrops and get this picture:

Aloe growing in La Mesa, California, January 24, 2012

Out & About San Diego — #5: Go to the Zoo, come home with….

Out & About San Diego

I have an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. I go at least once a week to one of them.

The Zoo occupies 100 acres while Safari Park has 1,800 acres.

The Zoo is in Balboa Park near downtown San Diego, while Safari Park is near Escondido, about 45 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Safari Park was founded in 1972 while the Zoo was founded as part of the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition.

Both the Zoo and the Safari Park are internationally recognized botanical gardens. When you go to either of them, then, it’s always worthwhile to spend some time looking at the flora, too.

Since it’s been raining off and on for the past several days, something that’s rare in San Diego, the photographers are out en masse looking for those magical pictures with water on them.

I got mine at the San Diego Zoo:

Passionflower

Passionflower

  

That’s a passionflower (Passiflora sp.), one of my top five flowers. There are about five hundred species of passionflowers but only nine are native to the United States. Most of them are vines, and San Diegans like to grow them on their chain-link fences to lessen the ugliness of that type of fence. You can see the chain link fence in the background of those two pictures.

Passionflowers have a unique structure, and once you’ve seen one, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever forget it. You’ll be able to identify that “weird vine with a beautiful flower” that’s growing on your neighbor’s fence.

The passion fruit is quite large for a vine, and the fruit of Passiflora edulis is actually called passionfruit and used for food and juice in many parts of the world. I can attest to the flavor of the passionfruit since I have enjoyed many a passionfruit margarita at Islands burger restaurant in San Diego’s Mission Valley. Hmmm, maybe it’s the alcohol that’s flavorful?

Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

  

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Just hangin’ out

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Sometimes you just get lucky.

Not too far from me is a mountain peak named Mt. Helix. It’s a great place to watch sunrises and sunsets, and I go there often. The sunsets are the best because you can get downtown San Diego in the picture on a clear night.

On this day, as I was walking from my car to where I was going to wait for the sun to set, I saw these two guys just hanging out:

Just hangin' out

  

That was a snapshot in that I didn’t do anything other than set the camera (Canon 550d) to P and took a snapshot. I got lucky because I like everything about that picture — the lighting, the composition with the bench, the big tree, the rocks, just the right perspective to the picture with the guys sitting on the rocks instead of the bench (how guy-like). Even the houses about 500 feet below are in pretty good focus to indicate how high up the guys were.

Picture taken on November 29, 2011. Here is the reason why I went to Mt. Helix that day:

Sunset from Mt. Helix in La Mesa, California, on November 29, 2011

  

Great clouds are rare in the San Diego area, so if you come here and see them during the day, consider yourself lucky. Then head to Mt. Helix in La Mesa, Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, or Cowles Mountain on the La Mesa/San Diego border because the sunsets will be awesome.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About San Diego — #4: Go to an orchid show, come home with….

Out & About San Diego

Three friends and I went to Balboa Park to go to the San Diego Orchid Society’s winter show yesterday. I came home with 132 pictures of orchids, but I also came home with this picture:

Monarch butterfly in San Diego

  

That’s a male monarch butterfly. A female would have a little black dot on its wing.

After leaving the orchid show, we went over to the Botanical Building, just a few hundred feet away from where the orchid show was. The Botanical Building was also full of orchids but nothing that we hadn’t already seen at the orchid show.

That beautiful monarch butterfly was sitting outside the entrance to the Botanical Building when we went in. I would have stopped then to take its picture, but there was already a group of photographers waiting their turn. Since I have pictures of monarch butterflies, I decided to skip the monarch line.

When we came out, our monarch was still sitting there but there was no line. So I quickly made a line of one and came home with that picture.

Right next to where the monarch was sitting is a California milkweed (Asclepias californica), which I just identified tonight while writing this post. Monarchs love milkweeds, basically needing them to survive.

During the summer the milkweed is full of monarch caterpillars:

Monarch caterpillars, September 2011, San Diego

  

Monarch caterpillars, September 2011, San Diego

  

Monarch caterpillar chrysalis, September 2011, San Diego

  

Here is a picture of the flowers of the California milkweed:

Flower of the California milkweed

  

Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

  

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About San Diego — #3: Feral cats

Out & About San Diego

A couple of years ago I went walking along the jetty where the San Diego River meets the Pacific Ocean and found a large population of feral cats living in the rocks. They were very well taken care of because there were dozens of food and water containers that had been set out for them. They weren’t feral cats at one point in the past, though. Instead, most of them were family pets.

In talking with many of the people walking on the jetty and watching the sun set, I found out that the population exploded during the past few years with the downtown in the economy and people losing their homes to foreclosure. People would abandon their pets there.

Note: Folks, if you don’t want your family pet or can no longer take care of it, please take it to your nearest no-kill animal shelter rather than dropping it off in an isolated location. That’s just plain cruel.

I go out to the jetty once a month just to take pictures of the many beautiful cats and wish that I could take them all home with me. Following are eight pictures from my most recent trek.

  

Picture 1Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 2Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 3Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 4Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 5Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 6Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 7Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

Picture 8Feral cat in San Diego, California

  

All pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

  

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat