Tag Archives: nature’s geometry: succulents by russel ray

Nature’s Geometry in Succulents—2020 speaking schedule so far

Nature's Geometry: Succulents by Russel Ray

Having published my book, “Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” in October 2019, I’m now on the speaking circuit for cactus & succulent clubs throughout the nation.

Here is my current “Nature’s Geometry in Succulents” speaking schedule.

Come see me if I’m in your area!

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

I will be driving to all locations, including Georgia.

Consequently, I’m contacting the cactus & succulent clubs between
San Diego and Georgia to see if I can get some more engagements
on the schedule for June.

Raindrops on an aeonium

Nature’s Geometry: Succulents—Orostachys spirals

Nature's Geometry: Succulents by Russel Ray

I’m always on the prowl for plants that exhibit relationships derived from the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The sequence was published by Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (ca. 1170–1250), better known as Fibonacci, in 1202 in his book, Liber Abaci. (In his book, Fibonacci also introduced Arabic numerals to the Western world. If not for him, we might still be using Roman numerals!)

Fibonacci introduced the Fibonacci sequence of numbers to solve a problem on rabbit breeding. Apparently, rabbit overpopulation was a serious problem in Italy in his time. Here’s the problem:

Beginning with a single pair of rabbits (one male and one female), how many pairs of rabbits will be born in a year, assuming that every month each male and female rabbit gives birth to a new pair of rabbits, and the new pair of rabbits itself starts giving birth to additional pairs of rabbits after the first month of their birth?

Rabbit bathFibonacci determined that the first pair of rabbits would have 377 pairs of rabbits, or 754 rabbits during the year (assuming no rabbit deaths!). If you’ve ever taken care of rabbits for an extended period of time, you know that 754 rabbits is a gross undervalue!

Without going into a great deal of mathematics, the relationship between individual numbers in the Fibonacci sequence creates what are called golden segments, golden ratios, golden squares, golden triangles, and golden spirals.

I became fascinated with the Fibonacci sequence in 1972, and how they manifest themselves throughout nature and the universe.

Golden spirals are my favorite, and I recently discovered the Orostachys genus, species of which are absolutely gorgeous in their display of spirals. Here are two pictures of Orostachys spinosa, a plant that now is high on my list of must-have plants:

Orostachys spinosa

It only took 20 years

Ever since stamps.com came along in the late ’90s, I have wanted to use them. I wanted to create my own flower and pet stamps. Each year when I checked them, I found their monthly charge and their charge for stamp labels to be too expensive.

Still is.

Currently, they are $17.99 a month with $5 free postage initially.

I created an account today, though. Only took me 20 years!

I can create custom stamps but those approved by the USPS are too expensive because they have to be printed on USPS-approved labels. I can print directly on an envelope but where I want to print them—just to the left of the meter indicia—is not approved.

So I resorted to doing things the old-fashioned way by putting an image in the lower left corner.

I print the envelopes using Word/Excel mail merge and then print the metered postage on them.

Interestingly, metered postage gets a discount. The 2020 rate for first class postage is 55¢. Metered first class postage is 50¢. If one has a lot of mail each month, it’s easy to make the figures pencil out.

I will be sending Nature’s Geometry: Succulents flyers to horticulture clubs, gardening clubs, cactus & succulent clubs, retirement homes, and libraries in an effort to speak to their members, residents, and patrons.

I am sending flyers to everyone in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. It probably will take me a couple of months since I already have several thousand in my database.

Here is my first envelope.

Envelope using stamps.com

Nature’s Geometry: Star-tetrahedron

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" front cover

In my never-ending quest for finding geometry in nature, I recently found a star-tetrahedron in the flowers of a Hoya pubicalyx ‘Red Buttons.’ Here are the flowers:

Hoya pubicalyx 'Red Buttons'

The star-tetrahedron is a three-dimensional figure, represented in two dimensions thusly:

Star-tetrahedron

The flowers create a three-dimensional ball, so if I could wrap a three-dimensional star-tetrahedron around the flower ball, I’d be willing to bet that everything would line up almost perfectly.

Since I can’t do that, I have to settle for a two-dimensional picture of the hoya flowers and a two-dimensional representation of a star-tetrahedron. But, with special thanks to Photoshop, everything lines up pretty nicely when I superimpose that star-tetrahedron representation on top of the two-dimensional picture of the flowers:

Star-tetrahedron superimposed on Hoya pubicalyx 'Red Buttons'

It’s too late to put this in my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, but it’s not too late to put it in my Powerpoint presentation for the cactus & succulent clubs that I will be talking to next year.

I’m well on my way before I even start!

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Ever since I joined my first cactus & succulent club in February 2017, I had been wanting to do a presentation of nature’s geometry using the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…..). It’s an additive sequence, meaning that the next number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers.

The program chairperson for the first club told me in April 2018 that they had just had such a speaker a year ago, that he was very good, and that I would be hard-pressed to follow him. I told him that, since 1973, I had been studying the Fibonacci numbers and how they are expressed in nature, so I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to follow anyone. However, having a speaker just a year ago meant that having another speaker on the same subject the following year probably would not go over well. I got the name of the previous speaker, and it turns out that “a year ago” was defined as “five years ago.” More importantly, though, I since found out that the program chairperson for that club doesn’t schedule anyone who is not already on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. That, of course, begs the Catch-22 question, “How do you get on the speaking circuit to begin with?”

Turns out that one has to make contacts in a club which will take a chance on you, and that happened in June 2019 for me with the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Club of Escondido, California.

I recently found out two other ways: (1) write many articles throughout the years and have them published in reputable books and magazines, and (2) to publish a book, which I did in October 2019:

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" front cover

Nature's Geometry: Succulents back cover

My book is for sale at my Etsy shop, $30 with free shipping to United States locations: etsy.com/shops/russelrayphotos

Many decades ago, being an author of a book was a pretty good indicator of expertise. In today’s world of self-publishing, not necessarily. That’s a problem that I dealt with with my own head when looking at publishers.

I wanted desperately for the Texas A&M University Press to publish my book since Texas A&M University is my alma mater, Class of ’77. However, the cost of having the Press publish it would have been about $44 per book, so I would have wanted to sell it for $50 to make at least a little money. The only books that are 174 pages that sell for that much money are academic books by academic publishers. So that was out.

The other problem was the time frame. It would have taken up to 18 months to publish the dang thing.

So self-publishing it was…. inexpensive and as fast as I wanted it to be. I chose BookBaby because they are a print-on-demand service. I can have one book printed, hundreds of books, or thousands of books. Of course, the more books one has printed, the less expensive the cost per book.

I could choose to have BookBaby completely involved in everything, or nothing. I chose nothing because I have been doing writing, editing, graphic design, book and magazine design and layout, and publishing all my life.

If I used all of their services, the cost would have been right up there with the Texas A&M University Press, and the lead time would have been up there, too. By buying an ISBN number from BookBaby and then using their printing services, I kept the cost low and the lead time short.

I am extremely happy with BookBaby’s printing, paper, and binding.

Having a book published immediately got me on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. I’m also exploring many other speaking circuits, including horticulture clubs, gardening clubs, community retirement homes (I had no idea that so many of them have regular programs; two already have expressed an interest), and city and county libraries, many of which have up to five programs each week.

The reception of Nature’s Geometry: Succulents also has me looking at doing another book. My two immediate choices are Nature’s Geometry: Flora and Nature’s Geometry: Fauna. However, my main goal is to stay on the cactus & succulent speaking circuit where I already know my intended audience and their likes.

I have noticed that a great majority of the cactus & succulent speakers give presentations on their travels to foreign countries. The Atacama Desert region of Chile and the Oxaca region of Mexico are two of the most popular. That, though, caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, the southwestern United States has a lot to offer.Fishhook barrel cactus

There are a lot of cacti & succulents that grow in our region, many of which are found only here. Carnegiea gigantea (the saguaro) comes immediately to mind, but there also is Ferocactus wislizeni, the Southwestern barrel cactus (picture at right), Agave utahensis (which, you might guess, occurs in Utah), Ferocactus cylindraceus, the California barrel cactus, and Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree.

Knowing this, I have decided to do a second book, tentatively titled
SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. For my purpose with this book, I will define “southwest” as California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

United States SSS map

During 2020, I will be endeavoring to go to all the national parks, national monuments, botanical gardens, zoos (many zoos in the southwest also are botanical gardens), state parks, and cities with a population of at least 50,000. There will be exceptions, I’m sure. I already have a few million photos from excursions in the southwest, so I’m well on my way before I even start!

The nice thing about this second book is that, for people back east, going to the southwestern United States can be very much like going to a foreign country, so I might be able to get on cactus & succulent speaking circuits outside of my home territory of the southwest.

Cyber Monday 2019: 20% off all items at my Esty shop.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Tomorrow will be the first Cyber Monday for which I actually have product to sell and can sell it at a discount.

Everything 20% off at my Etsy shop.

Free U.S. nationwide shipping. Media Mail for the book and First Class for the calendars.

Not shipping internationally yet; still working on that.

  • “Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” (174-page soft-cover book with over 600 pictures)
    Regularly $25.
    $20 for Cyber Monday only.
  • 10 calendars: Birds, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Fibonacci Flora, Flowers, Orchids, Roses, Spirals, Succulents
    All pictures are from my own camera.
    Regularly $20.
    $16 for Cyber Monday only.

Use this link to have the 20% discount applied automatically at checkout:

Double R Creations shop at Etsy

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.