Category Archives: Nature

Unsolicited comments and updated speaking schedule

Nature's Geometry: Succulents by Russel Ray

In 1966 when my wise old grandmother was helping her 11-year-old grandson (me!) set up his first company, she told me not to solicit comments, saying that if someone wanted to comment, they would. Unsolicited comments are the best.

So here are unsolicited comments about my book and presentation:

From Etsy
Etsy review of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents"

From my Facebook page
Facebook review of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents"

From Instagram
Facebook review of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents"

From the Facebook page for San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society
San Gabriel Valley C&SS review of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" presentation

Here is my updated “Nature’s Geometry in Succulents” speaking schedule. Come see me if I’m in your area!

  • February 11 – Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society
    Bakersfield, California
  • February 13 – San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society, Los Angeles County Arboretum,
    Arcadia, California
  • March 14 – Visalia Succulent Society,
    Visalia, California
  • May 10 – South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society,
    Palos Verdes Estates, California
  • June 7 – Atlanta Cactus & Succulent Society,
    Atlanta, Georgia
  • July 1 – Gates Cactus & Succulent Society,
    Redlands, California

Whenever I go to speak to a club, I always take plants, books, and shells to create a display about Nature’s Geometry. The plants and shells exhibit the golden spiral.

Here’s my display from the 2/13/20 meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society:

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" display for cactus club meetings

If you get lost in Beverly Hills

If you ever get lost in Beverly Hills, get lost at Camden Dr & N Santa Monica Blvd to visit the awesome historic cactus garden.

Location of the Beverly Hills Historic Cactus Garden

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The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden—A Review

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
A Review

Hippos at the Los Angeles ZooI became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.

Chimpanzees at the Los Angeles ZooA couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.

That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenThen, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.

When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.

Serval at the Los Angeles ZooI don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.

Los Angeles ZooYesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.

Ostrich at the Los Angeles ZooThe Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenI was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.

Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:

      1. I now have been to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
      2. The birds show was excellent because it featured birds that you won’t be seeing in your back yard: two African vultures (huge birds!) and a California Condor (another huge bird!)
      3. Although many of the botanical gardens were weedy and covered with leaves, I did get enough good pictures for my book.
      4. The giraffe feeding line was very long, and having fed the giraffes at the San Diego Zoo, I can tell you that feeding giraffes is quite an experience. This final picture shows a little girl feeding a giraffe. I believe this little girl will grow up with an appreciation of wildlife—my appreciation of wildlife started by feeding a monkey. Perhaps this little girl will get a college degree in wildlife conservation, maybe even work in a zoo providing this type of experience to the next generation.

Feeding a giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo

All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.

Your Christmas poinsettia

Did you know?

It’s the time of the year when poinsettias invade our lives.

Scott #1256 Poinsettia

Scott #2166 Poinsettia

Did you know that the poinsettia is a succulent? Yes! It’s true! It’s scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. The genus Euphorbia has over 2,000 species, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants.

Did you also know that those red leaves are not flower petals. Those simply are modified bracts, or colored leaves. They help draw bugs and insects in to the flowers for pollination because the flowers themselves are very small.

Here in San Diego, poinsettias grow year-round and bloom year-round, and they can get to be a small tree or bush about fifteen feet tall. Here are a couple that I see on a regular basis:

Poinsettias at San Diego State University

Euphorbias are spurges. They have a white, milky sap called latex. That latex has varying amounts of diterpenes and oxalates in it, which can cause skin irritation. If it gets in contact with mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth, the result can be extremely painful inflammation.

If you get this stuff on you, wash it off immediately and thoroughly with an emulsifier such as soap, or even milk. If inflammation occurs, get emergency medical help because permanent blindness and kidney damage can occur.

Consequently, because these things are so beautiful, children like to touch them and smell them. Don’t let them! Pets also are attracted to them, so keep them out of reach of those jumpers and chewers.

My wise old grandmother had several poinsettias growing along the driveway in Kingsville, Texas. My basketball court was the driveway, and sometimes we’d lose the basketball in the poinsettia bushes, which had broken stems at that point. I’d often notice inflammation and itching whenever I got the sap on me but never made the connection. I mean, it was South Texas, full of bugs and such, so after playing basketball for a couple of hours, one expected to be a little itchy.

It was until my second year living with my wise old grandmother, in 1967, that I was tasked with pruning the poinsettias. If you cut them back in October, they will be absolutely gorgeous in December. After pruning them one day, I spent the night in the hospital. I was one great big ball of inflammation. That was back in the days before the medical industry in South Texas understood euphorbia latex, and that incident was my last experience with poinsettias. I have never had them in my house at Christmas time.

Another plant that my wise old grandmother had a lot of as the Crown of Thorns. Notwithstanding its many thorns which make it look like a cactus, it is not. It is a succulent, a spurge, a euphorbia—Euphorbia millii. I do have many crown of thorns because the thorns act like an early warning system, making it easy to keep the sap off my skin. Most of my Euphorbia millii are hybrids, with big, beautiful “flowers”:

Euphorbia millii

Euphorbia millii

Although I have been growing cacti and succulents since 1968, it wasn’t until January 1, 2017, that I started learning their scientific names. Turns out that my gardens are full of euphorbias. Always have been, and they all have that caustic latex. Not all people experience the worst from the euphorbia latex, but I do.

Except for my crown of thorns, my euphorbias are small with large bodies rather than stems, making them easy to care for and easy to keep the sap off me. Here are some of the euphorbias in my gardens:

Euphorbia anoplia
Euphorbia anoplia

Euphorbia spiralis
Euphorbia spiralis

Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’
Euphorbia trigona 'Rubra'

Euphorbia stellata
Euphorbia stellata

As an aside, 50% of the world Christmas poinsettia market is produced right here in the Encinitas, about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Poinsettia

 

I hope it’s in my yard!

Little Queen Olivia

Update on Little Queen Olivia.

It took 3 days of over-the-counter medicine—medicine for humans recommended by a vet!—but the little queen is back to her rambunctious, psychotic little self.

She is back enjoying her catio, and I have been watching her closely. Yesterday she was on the catio chair intently staring up at a corner.

Little Queen Olivia

She looked like she was saying prayers to the Great Cat. I looked up in the corner several times to see what she was watching.

Nothing.

Finally, I saw it.

The largest praying mantis I had ever seen. Only the fourth one I have seen in the 26½ years I have been in California, and all of them in the last 2½ years out here in the East San Diego County boondocks.

Here it is after I rescued it from the catio and relocated it outside.

Praying mantis

I’m not a biologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that praying mantis is a gal, and I do believe she is pregnant, perhaps looking for some place to lay some eggs. I hope it’s in my yard!

The third praying mantis I saw was one day earlier. It was outside on one of the windows of our bedroom. You know I rushed outside with my Canon camera to get a picture, yes?

Praying mantis

We have dual-pane windows, which created interesting shadows. The first shadow was on the outside pane, and then there was a shadow of the shadow on the inside pane. Pretty cool. The little black dot in the lower left is a little fly, obviously being stalked by that praying mantis.

SNIPPETS (11/22/2019)

Snippets

SNIPPET 1

How come WordPress does not yet have an icon for changing text size? I still have to go into the HTML code and change the text size manually. Every other program I use has an easy way to change text size….

SNIPPET 2

When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University in 1974, I was enthralled by the Nixon impeachment. The only other impeached president was Andrew Johnson in 1868. It had been over 100 years.

Although Nixon resigned rather than being impeached, I found the workings of the United States government under its Constitution to be fascinating. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, within a mere 45 years, two more presidents, Clinton and the current president would be impeached.

Granted, the current president, whose name I have not uttered since November 9, 2016—I call him Twitler because he likes to destroy people using Twitter; Hitler on Twitter—has not yet been impeached, but considering all I have read and heard about the impeachment hearings, I believe he will be impeached before Christmas Day. It might even be faster because the people in charge of impeaching him—the House of Representatives—have to get home for Christmas. Actually, when I think about that, impeachment might happen before Thanksgiving!

Of course, impeachment simply means that the Grand Jury—the House of Representatives in this case—believes there is enough evidence to impeach (indict) him. The trial occurs in the Senate, and at this point I cannot see Twitler being convicted.

SNIPPET 3

I legally changed my name in 2004, dropping my last name and taking my middle name as my last name. I’m about convinced to change my name again, this time to Doctor Doctor so that I’ll know that Robert Palmer really is singing about me.

Previously, the only group to ever sing about me was the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”:

Did you hear it? Right at the 1:43 mark: “I can still feel the breeze that russels through the trees.”

SNIPPET 4

Over on Facebook there’s a meme trending that has a woman screaming at a white cat. I find the cat’s response each time to be quite funny, so I decided to make a contribution:

White cat meme

SNIPPET 5

Since I’m now making a concerted effort to do things with my photography using three business names—Russel Ray Photos, Photographic Art, and Double R Creations—I’m being more active on Instagram and with my Russel Ray Photos page on Facebook. You can follow me on those two platforms.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/russel_ray_photos/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/russelrayphotos/

I’m very political, but not on Instagram or that Facebook page. I do have a personal Facebook page where I am very political. ALL. DAY. LONG.

SNIPPET 6

I should have another calendar at my Etsy shop by the end of 11/22/2019, this one on birds. This picture of a peacock and a white-faced whistling duck will be my cover photo:

2020 Birds calendar, front cover

I put that picture on Facebook and those commenting were only too ready to provide captions. Two of my favorites:

    • Misplaced flirting
    • “Can’t whistle? Not interested.”

I have so many great bird pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m going to do at least two bird calendars. Possibly even three.

SNIPPET 7

The rainy season arrived on 11/19/2019. So far there has been 5.25 inches of rain in three days. When I went to the garage yesterday morning in the wind & rain, a rabbit took off in front of me. It was slipping and sliding as it tried desperately to get away from me as quickly as possible. Poor thing. I looked at where it had been and found a big pile of poop. Upon closer examination, turns out it’s not poop. Just the ugliest mushrooms ever have I seen.

Ugly mushrooms

SNIPPET 8

I like to go into the gardens right after it’s rained and take macro pictures of raindrops on plants. Key phrase in that sentence is AFTER IT’S RAINED.

The rain just won’t stop, and I’m not willing to trod around in the water and mud with my expensive Canon 760d and expensive macro lens. So here’s one of my favorite macro raindrops on cactus photos. Taken on 3/23/2018 at 7:55 a.m., so it must have rained the previous day and/or night.

Raindrops on cactus macro picture

As I was focusing on that picture, I initially had wanted every to be in focus, but then I saw that first rain drop twinkling at me (just barely visible at WordPress resolutions), so I decided to focus on it and let everything else be a little less sharp.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a calendar featuring macro pictures.

SNIPPET 9

Another bird from my 2020 Birds calendar. Who knew that some birds were flashers?

Great blue heron flashing

SNIPPET 10

The resolution of the following picture isn’t good enough for my calendar at 12″x8″, but at a smaller size it’s fine.

Condor

Once again, Facebook users came through with captions:

    • And the great bird said, “Come unto me. Kneel, all ye who gaze upon my face.”
    • “Common, ladies. Look at this plumage! This wing span! Let’s do this!”

SNIPPET 11

After I graduated from high school in May 1973, I quit celebrating holidays. I never liked them, finding them too artificial. With that said, though, Thanksgiving (when we celebrate the beginning of one of the great genocides in human history) is next week. I do believe I shall have some turkey wine for Thanksgiving this year.

Turkey wine and feeling fine

SNIPPET 12

My retirement years are allowing me to catch up on movies and television shows that I have missed since 1973. For both my train friends and my history friends, I can highly recommend the TV series, “Hell On Wheels.” It’s about the building of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. People and events are historical facts with only the unknown added or minute details changed. A very intriguing series. Available on Netflix.

Hell On Wheels

“Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” now for sale!

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" front cover

My book, “Nature’s Geometry: Succulents,” officially is for sale now at my new Etsy shop.

Next day shipping with free shipping to anywhere in the world.

For now.

That might change as I get more experienced in shipping,
so order now while shipping is free!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/750414133/natures-geometry-succulents?ref=listing_published_alert

“Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” uses over 600 photographs to examine how the Fibonacci sequence of numbers is exhibited in Nature, particularly succulents. About 99% of the photographs are mine, and about 95% of the plants are mine, as well.

Soft cover only. 174 pages.

Covers the shape of plants, the number of plant ribs, the number of spines in areoles, golden angles, phyllotaxis (the divergent angle), golden triangles, Fibonacci triangles, golden squares, golden rectangles, circles, fractals, and, most fascinating to him, golden spirals.

Who is Russel Ray? A quick Russel Ray timeline:

  • 1962—Received his first plant, a heartleaf ivy, from his first grade teacher.
  • 1966—Got started in photography as a volunteer elementary school events photographer.
  • 1968—Created a 100-square-foot cactus rock garden in his grandmother’s yard.
  • 1973—Became fascinated with the Fibonacci sequence of numbers and how they are expressed in nature.
  • 2019—Finally published this book. (It has a real ISBN!)

I have one review so far, posted on Instagram by dr.cactus_man, the President of the Long Beach Cactus Club:

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" review

My 2020 calendars “Nature’s Geometry: Spirals,” will be in my Etsy shop by tomorrow. Price will be $20 with free shipping to anywhere in the world.

2020 "Nature's Geometry: Spirals" calendar cover

I will have a sneak peak of the full spirals calendar tomorrow.

I also will have other 2020 calendars available by December 1: Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, for sure, and others featuring roses, orchids, cats, animals, and trains. I’m sure I’ll find more subjects as I’m browsing my huge collection of photographs.

When you wish upon a star….

Did you know?

It’s no secret that the world loves stars. After all, “When you wish upon a star….” More:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
—Stephen Hawking

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground
—Theodore Roosevelt

The sight of stars makes me dream.
—Vincent Van Gogh

I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
—Og Mandino

Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.
—Draya Mooney

There wouldn’t be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one.
—Frances Clark

I would be willing to stake my reputation (what reputation?) on stars being the number one shape of Mother & Father Natures beautiful flowers. Indeed, stars are a significant portion of my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray(Book is being sent on Monday to publisher for printing
and should be available for purchase around November 1, 2019.)

I am not ashamed to admit that stars happen to be my favorite flower shape, especially when the star is extraordinarily well pronounced, as in these two pictures from this past week of star flowers in my gardens:

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia gigantea by far is my favorite flower ever. The flowers are up to ten inches in diameter, somewhat hairy, feel leathery, and just look like something that an alien Mother & Father Nature might come up with on a star millions of light years away from us.

These two flowers, particularly Stapelia gigantea, attract flies for pollination like today is going to be the last day on Earth for pollination opportunities. They do this by smelling horrible, like rotting flesh. As a friend of mine said, “Lovely….”

Although mine attract flies, I have not yet smelled any rotting flesh, and I even have stuck my nose deep into the flower, after shooing the flies away, of course. I used to think my nose simply wasn’t working properly, but I can smell pizza, Mexican food, and margaritas from miles away. Maybe I just don’t have any “rotting flesh” sensory cells in my nose. Yeah, that’s it.

Stapelia gigantea flowers are so big that it is easy to sit and actually watch the big flower buds open and attract flies. In 2019, I had 23 flowers on my one Stapelia gigantea (there are 17 so far this year), so I started doing time Stapelia gigantea flower lapse photography last year.

Following is my best time lapse video from last year. Note the number of flies enjoying their time at the buffet. This video is 5 hours of photos taken every 5 seconds (3,500 photos!) and condensed into just 1 minute and 4 seconds. The flower on the left opened the previous day, and the middle flower will be opening in the video.