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The Meaning of Red

Updated on August 19, 2014

I Hate Red!

Except when I like it. Red birds are beautiful. Red carpets drive me up a wall. It depends partly on context. Too much red hitting the eyeballs causes me to go into a tailspin, wishing to be someplace else. I would never buy a red car.

I guess the best way to summarize it is that red is beautiful in nature. It doesn't work on man-made objects.

The photo is a caboose I found in Flagstaff. At one time, it was a brilliant red. Time has faded it. Red was always the traditional color for cabooses, it seems. I have no idea why.

All photos in this Lens are mine unless otherwise stated.

Red Carpet

I always hated red carpets. Somehow they just totally overwhelm my eyes, and make me feel like I have no energy. I feel totally drained.

Just about everywhere we have lived, it seems there has been a red carpet. We would choose a house for another reason, but one room just HAD to have a red carpet. Just my luck. We finally built our own house, which we actually occupied. And then a friend was remodeling his home, and gave us his old carpet, which was still in excellent condition. It was...you guessed it...RED!

We put it on the balcony until we could decide what to do with it. The cats didn't have any trouble figuring that out. It was a scratching post! After they had scratched it to death, we threw it out.

Red House

A little overpowering, don't you think? This one was just south of downtown Tucson.

Old Gasoline Pump

This one sits somewhere along Old Spanish Trail, outside Tucson, Arizona. Red was a common color for gas pumps in those days. Not so much anymore.

It had been awhile since I drove past that place, but I drove by there just two days ago (June, 2014). The two red gas pumps are still there.

On the other hand, when it's cultural...

These two photos are from the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Red seems to fit here. Chinese people have always regarded red as a color of joy and celebration. So it just looks right.

Red envelopes are provided to guests at a wedding. The guests put in money as wedding presents. This helps defray the cost of an expensive wedding.

Russians think red is beautiful, too. The Russian word for "red" is "krasni" and the Russian word for "beautiful" is "krasivi". Clearly, they're linked in the Russian's mind. (Communist dictators tried to capitalize (sorry about the pun) on this by using red in the flag and in other places, to try to influence the people to support communism. It didn't work all that well.)

Cosanti

Here is an interesting architectural use of red. This is a skylight in the store at Cosanti, one of two communities of artists designed and built by Paolo Soleri.

Red Birds

Let's look at natural things that are beautiful in red. Like birds, dragonflies, flowers, and sunsets.

Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis

I absolutely adore male Cardinals. It is a total delight to see one. They're not common. That's one reason why.

Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber

We're not lucky enough to see these in the wild around here. They are tropical South American birds. I found this one at the zoo.

Madagascar Red Fody - Foudia madagascariensis

It lives where? Madagascar! I once got an email from a woman who wanted use this photo in a brochure about the birds of Madagascar, for schoolchildren. I said, "Sure, you can use my picture".

Vermilion Flycatcher - Pyrocephalus rubinus

On the other hand, we have one of our own, very similar. These are seen frequently in cooler months. I found this male at Arivaca Cienega.

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna

This hummer lucked out and got a red head. Other hummers have a red face, perhaps. This is the only one that comes into my neck of the woods that has the entire head a brilliant red color (when flashing, of course).

Scarlet Macaw - Ara macao

We don't get these here. These live further south of us, mostly in South America. The red is tastefully joined by other brilliant colors.

Red-capped Cardinal - Paroaria gularis

As I explained in another Lens, it was a real delight and a gift to find this bird, because I learned of his existence only the night before, and thought to myself, "Oh how I wish I could see that bird in person!" Little did I know I would do just that, and get good pictures, less than a day later. He's from South America.

Eclectus Parrot - Eclectus roratus

You can find these birds in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, northeastern Australia and the Maluku Islands. I found this one at Reid Park Zoo, and he didn't REALLY want to pose for pictures. But I "snuck" a few shots at him anyway.

Elegant Trogon - Trogon elegans

We have a compensation. This gorgeous tropical bird DOES visit southern Arizona, but you have to know where to look, and he's often not easy to find. This one required a hike one mile up and one mile back.

Dragonflies

Odonata

Dragonflies often come in red, and so do damselflies. I give you one of each.

Flame Skimmer - Libellula saturata

We see these often at Sweetwater Wetlands, during the appropriate seasons. They can look orange in different light, but they are definitely in the category of red in other cases.

Desert Firetail - Telebasis salva

This is an old picture, so I don't have the large sizes I was able to make later. This is a damselfly. Dragonfly wings come out of the side of the thorax, and damselfly wings come out of the rear. Damselflies naturally hold their wings back, or somewhat back.

These are about an inch long, fully grown. Most damselflies tend to be small. I found these at Montezuma's Well in central Arizona.

Butterflies (and moths)

Lepidoptera

We move on to other red insects.

Atlas Moth - Attacus atlas

Pure red butterflies are hard to come by, so I'll start with this moth. She has four eggs between the bottom tips of the wings. This is one of the largest moths in the world, and measure several inches from one wing tip to the other. They come out in adult form with no mouth parts, so they cannot eat and only live a few days.

Julia Butterfly - Dryas iulia

This butterfly mostly lives to the south of the border of the United States. Usually, it looks orange, but this was a particularly dark individual, so looks red, to me, at least. As I said, pure red butterflies are hard to come by. A red pattern is much more likely.

Scarlet Peacock - Anartia amathea

A butterfly of north and central America.

Postman - Heliconius melpomene

Most of the butterflies I know about just have red accents. These long-wing butterflies have a large number of pattern variations. Learning which pattern fits with which name isn't easy. I think they also probably interbreed. Most of them don't have red on them, but a few do. These butterflies are all from central and South America.

Doris Longwing - Heliconius doris

Looks a lot like a Postman. This species also comes in light blue instead of red.

Fish

How about some fish? I don't get to photograph fish very often.

These next two species are from the Sea of Cortez, between Sonora, Mexico, and Baja California. These were found in the newly-opened aquarium room at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Popeye Catalufa - Pristigenys serrula

Blotcheye Soldierfish - Myripristis berndti

Thank you to Mike Kelleher of the New England Aquarium for identifying this fish for me. It is widespread in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is included in the Desert Museum's collection because it occurs in the Sea of Cortez, aka the Gulf of California.

Painted Greenling - Oxylebius picuts

Found at New England Aquarium. I didn't know what this was for a long time, but when I emailed them, they supplied the following information: They also have the common name of Convict Fish. They range

from the Baja peninsula to Washington on the West coast. They are usually found in rocky areas down to 160 feet. They grow to up to ten inches but six inch fish are more common.

Thank you to Mike Kelleher of the New England Aquarium for identifying this fish for me.

Flowers

Let's move from animals to vegetables...

This is a Mexican Bird-of-Paradise, Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Not native right in this area, but widely grown. It flowers for months.

They say vegetables are good for the body. Looking at them is good for the eyes.

Aloes

Most Aloes have orange-red flowers. This one starts out that way, but the earlier blossoms are a pale yellow. The newer ones are red. I am only familiar with a couple of species of aloes, and this isn't one of them. This was growing at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, west of Phoenix, as was the next one.

Cape Aloe - Aloe ferox

Ice Plant

Another one from the Arboretum. I don't remember the species. Ice Plants are succulents, fairly widely grown. Succulents are plants that store water in their leaves, and do well in dry climates with infrequent rains. Some people think all succulents are cacti, but in reality, all cacti are succulents, but most succulents aren't cacti at all.

Crassula "Campfire"

Before we drive all the way back to southern Arizona, I want to show you this plant, also growing in the Arboretum. This isn't a flower. This is a succulent with juicy red leaves. "Campfire" is the name of the breed.

Hibiscus

On our way back, we can stop by Biosphere 2, and see this beautiful Hibiscus flower blooming in the main greenhouse...

Desert Rose - Adenium obesum

From Madagascar, this plant is grown in southern Arizona by a few people, anyway. This flower was at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The trunk tends to be thick and looks "obese", hence, the name.

Orchid

I don't remember where I found this Orchid, and I'm not familiar with many species. But I'll show it to you anyway.

Anthurium

Most people are familiar with these gorgeous tropical flowers. They are sold in some of the grocery stores here, and there are a few growing at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. There are hundreds of species, but this is the one you usually see.

Scavenger Hunt

Go on a scavenger hunt. How many wild red species can you find? That is pretty much what happened to me when I wrote this Lens.

Another Hibiscus

That's what I think this is, anyway. I rarely see the flowers open all the way, but the one time I did, it was easy to identify. Found at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

Lilies

I think I got this photo in Alabama. They had a lot of different varieties of lilies growing there, many, many different colors. Sometimes whole gardens were made up of many different varieties.

Claret Cup Hedgehog - Echinocereus triglochidiatus

This species tends to grow further north, but a lot of people cultivate them in southern Arizona. I am told this is the only species of Hedgehog that is pollinated by hummingbirds. That might be a good trick, since the hummingbirds tend to hang out in southern Arizona, not in the Mojave Desert!

Blanketflower - Gaillardia pulchella

I find this one growing in the mountains, usually along the Mt. Lemmon Highway. It is also known as Indian Blanket. I found this particular collection south of Sonoita.

Debate

Do you like red?

Desert Mariposa Lily - Calochortus kennedyi

I know of only one place where I can find these flowers reliably at the right time of year, and it's a bit of a hike. It's in the Tucson Mountains, along the Sweetwater Trail up to Wasson Peak. There are never huge numbers of them, at least not that I know about. There might be 30 or so. They tend to be more orange than red, but this one was DEFINITELY red!

Baja Fairy Duster - Calliandra californica

There are several different colors of Fairy Duster, varying from pink to bright red. The pink ones are more common in the wild. This one has a visitor. The picture was taken at Tohono Chul Park just outside Tucson.

Rose

We finish off with a rose for your sweetheart, especially on Valentine's Day, which this just happens to be. This is also my half anniversary. We have been married 47 1/2 years. That was just a coincidence, but I like it. :)

Red Rocks of Sedona

There are lots of red rocks in Arizona and Utah, but I'll just give you one of my favorites. Sedona is located more or less in northern Arizona, and there are red rocks allovertheplace. These draw visitors from all over the world.

Sunsets

We have to give you some fiery red Arizona sunsets before we are finished. I got this one at Windy Point along the Mt. Lemmon Highway.

I got this one from my front yard.

And I got this one somewhere in Tucson.

I love red!

Now that I have selected and presented all these images, I have to say I love red. But only on living things and in natural settings.

I still don't like red on my carpet!

I used to live catty-corner across the street from a house that was white on the outside. It had one bedroom where the walls were painted fire-engine red. When they tried to sell the house, it took many months. I wonder why! I wouldn't want red walls, either. Because it took so long to sell it, we called it the White Elephant. :)

I imagine there is a lesson to be learned there somewhere...

Other Comments Welcome

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    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @poutine: Me, too. Thank you.

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      I love red flowers and red birds

    • Pat Goltz profile image
      Author

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @charmingvices lm: I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you and you're welcome!

    • charmingvices lm profile image

      charmingvices lm 4 years ago

      nice lens; I didn't know that there was so much information around the colour red.

      Thank you for sharing !