Daily Archives: November 1, 2011

Peppers so hot, they’ll give you superpowers

Even with the abysmal summer, one of the experimental successes this year was with moving beyond carnivorous plants and into Capsicum peppers as container plants. Specifically, thanks to the wonderful folks at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, I had a lot of experimental material. The heat and savage dryness managed to kill off some of the more promising plants early on, but you should see them exploding now that the heat has let off.

Now, I could tell you that the expansion includes crashing the 21st International Pepper Conference, scheduled for a year from this weekend. This depends upon how well I recuperate from the International Carnivorous Plant Conference next August. Instead, I’ll just relate that next spring, it’s time to try some more of the Institute’s specialty peppers under Texas conditions. As it is, I can’t recommend the NuMex “Halloween” cultivar highly enough, even if my plants never had the chance to bear fruit this year. The innumerable violet blooms were worth it.

Events past and present

Now that the Halloween insanity is over, you’d think that gardening season joins it. It may for those in northeast North America (my friend Joey Shea just sent me a picture of a little girl with a jack-o’-lantern atop a snowman, thereby setting the stage for The Nightmare Before Christmas 2: Oogie Boogie Strikes Back), but we’re still good for another four to eight weeks. Heck, now’s the time to get prepared for next spring, and I’ve already had my next-door neighbor give me some really odd looks upon watching me throw purloined bags of grass cuttings over my back fence. I tell him “it’s for the Czarina’s tomatoes next year,” but I don’t think he believes me.

Now’s also when lecture season really kicks in, before all of the temperate carnivores go into winter dormancy and the tropical ones need to move indoors. I’ve done a lot of talks and lectures in the last few years, but I have to say that last Thursday’s talk at the Episcopal School of Dallas had to have been one of the best of the lot. The only thing better than showing off carnivores to a gaggle of extremely curious and exceptionally intelligent kids is discovering that most had already been taking Latin, so they understood exactly why I started lapsing into Linnean binomial nomenclature. When discussing the four different and very distantly related groups of plants commonly referred to as “pitcher plants”, that’s vital.

(Sadly, I had no pictures of the lecture, even though the Czarina brought out the camera. She got a bit involved with passing around plants, and I don’t blame her. She also got great enjoyment off watching the girls in the front of the lecture room wince and make “eww” noises when talking about sundew feeding habits, because they were listening to every last word. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear from a few of them in a few years, making serious contributions to natural history after being inspired by those sundews.)

The only problem with the ESD lecture was that it was far too short, which can be a problem when discussing the sheer variety of carnivorous plant habits, environments, and capture and digestion strategies. This weekend’s Discovery Days: Discovering Reptiles & Other Critters event at the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas’s Fair Park should take care of that. Look for the Triffid Ranch table within the lofty environs therein on Saturday and Sunday until 5 in the afternoon, feel free to let your kids bring grown-ups, and don’t be afraid to let the grown-ups ask lots of questions. I’ll probably be mute by Sunday evening, but it should be a blast in the interim.

And speaking of the Nightmare Before Christmas motif, we’re now 25 days away from the MetroPCS Fair Park Holiday show, hosted by Friends of Fair Park. If things go quiet between now and then, it’s because I’ll be at work on Capsicum pepper bonsai and iTerrariums. Look at it as a live rendition of the Day of the Triffids Holiday Special, and come on out.

Post-Halloween gold

I’m the first one to agree that making up caramel-covered onions and giving them out to the local kids on Halloween is a cruel and horrible trick. However, I also have a slew of friends whose idea of a perfect Christmas Eve is to sit around the fire and eat chocolate-covered habanero peppers. (And thanks to Teresa Floyd for the tip.)