Introducing “Sid”

Apologies for the quiet around here, but it’s been very busy behind the scenes as of late. Between the cold fronts finally ceasing, which threw the Sarracenia blooming and trap-producing schedule all to pot, lots of propagating and repotting, and the Day Job, sleep is something that exists as a vague concept. It’s all worth it, though, especially after the triggerplants started coming out of winter dormancy, and vending at Texas Frightmare Weekend promises to be the biggest Triffid Ranch show ever.

Anyway, this isn’t the only reason for the radio silence. Please allow me to introduce you to “Sid,” a Nepenthes bicalcarata from lowland Borneo. Sid has lots of hobbies, including photosynthesizing, encouraging ant colonies to live in special chambers in his leaves, and producing traps the size of softballs. Yes, he gets his name from the obvious inspiration, and like his namesake, he’s really quite harmless.
Sid
N. bicalcarata gets its common name “fanged pitcher plant” from the structures inside of each open pitcher. While officially these are called “nectaries”, and they secrete copious amounts of sweet nectar, many Nepenthes species grow structures off the lid or lip of the pitcher for unknown reasons. In N. bicalcarata, while it’s been suggested that its distinctive fangs discourage birds or monkeys from stealing prey out of the traps, the reality is that nobody knows for sure what function the fangs have. Either way, they’re impressive, and as much as I loathe the overused descriptives “needle-sharp” or “razor-sharp” (hearing “razor-sharp” to describe Tyrannosaurus teeth is hysterical, because tyrannosaur teeth have more in common with bananas than razors), getting snagged by a spare nectary isn’t a pleasant experience.

Sid

Anyway, Sid currently resides in a new home, but not in the way anyone expected. Tiffany Franzoni of the exemplary gaming store Roll2Play in Coppell has been a faithful and considerate Triffid Ranch customer for the last seven years, and a move to a larger space gave her room for other attractions and events. She could have gone with an aquarium or vivarium, but she wanted carnivores. Oh, did she want carnivores, but with a very full show schedule, she didn’t have the time to care for them on her own. Perfectly fair, and she also had a taste for carnivores that weren’t exactly for beginners. N. bicalcarata is a fascinating plant, but it’s not one for those with no prior experience with Nepenthes care.

Sara and Tiffany

And this is where that much-hinted back project finally sees the light. Starting in 2015, the Triffid Ranch offers custom plant arrangements and conversions of existing enclosures, with the option for the customer to buy or to rent. Rental includes regular checkups and prunings, feedings (or the opportunity for the customer to get in a feeding under supervised conditions), and general maintenance, as well as lectures and special events. Sid here is the first of many to be set up this year, with details on their locations, availability to the public, and feeding times to be announced as they’re set up.

Tiffany and Paul

What this means in the short term is that Roll2Play already has plenty of reasons for you to stop by, but this coming Saturday, April 4, is special. April 4 marks the first of many regular monthly raffles for customers to become one of a lucky few to feed Sid. Admittedly, this consists of dropping crickets into pitchers, but it’s all hands-on. Check the Roll2Play site for details, but expect to see the big ugly guy on the right of the picture above at around 1 on Saturday afternoon. Feel free to bring kids, girlfriends, spouses, and about anyone else who would normally look at you askance at the idea of going to a gaming store: not only is Roll2Play not a typical gaming store, but you get the additional expressions on their faces when you tell them “No, really. I’m not checking out Warhammer 40,000 figures. I’m here to feed the plant!” (Not that there’s anything wrong with doing so. I always felt that a good Nepenthes enclosure really needs a few Tyranids to make them interesting.)

And on one last note, Sid isn’t alone. I currently have another N. bicalcarata cloned from the same parent plant, in a nearly identical enclosure, available for sale or rental. The difference is in the name: ask on the status of “Soo Catwoman“.

Have a Great Weekend

Cat Monday

Cadigan
Cats: grace, refinement, and subtlety, even when sleeping.

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Cat Monday

Leiber

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Things To Do In Richardson When You’re Dead: Dr. Delphinium orchid open house

A quick signal interrupt, and an excuse for my fellow Dallasites to stay as far away from the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade as possible. (Dallas is particularly good at turning ethnic Catholic holidays of celebration and glee into excuses for Anglo Protestants to feed vast rivers of booze vomit running through our streets, which is why you avoid Greenville Avenue at all costs on St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.) For the last several years, I’ve had to skip out on the legendary Gunter’s Orchids open houses in Richardson because the open houses coincided with my first spring show at All-Con. Not that I’d tell you to skip out on All-Con for any reason (especially since the dealers, particularly Tawanda Jewelry, will appreciate the attention), but my not having a booth means that I’m free to head out for the open house. Much to its credit, when the florist company Dr. Delphinium bought out Gunter’s two years ago, the old traditions remain, and Dr. Delphinium hosts its open house this Friday through Sunday at its Richardson location. This means lots and lots of freshly-blooming orchids, and you might even luck out and see the revived Tahitian vanilla orchid in full bloom.

Me, I’ll be out there on Saturday at around noon, so anyone who wants to join me is welcome to do so. If you can’t, well, I’ll get plenty of pictures. One way or another, see you then.

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Cat Monday

Cadigan

Have a Great Weekend

I’ve been saying “George Lucas had a better special effects budget, but Ed Wood was the superior screenwriter and director” for years…

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Cthulhufruit

And out of the depths of winter comes the promise of spring. After months of cold and chill, Earth progresses in its orbit around the sun, with daffodils and quince blooming in anticipation. Two weeks short of the official vernal equinox, life and weather celebrate the change…with six inches of snow. Welcome to Dallas.

While it might be reasonable to assume that the Triffid Ranch shut down entirely over the last four months, I compare it more to hibernation. The plants were sleeping, the garden dormant, and available shows and events dropping to next to nothing, so the last four months involved a very extensive and thorough cleaning and reorganizing. When your best friend refers to the purges of unneeded books, magazines, fabric, and other items from the house as “Stalinesque”, and when you consider that this is a man who stretches the term “minimalist” until it screams, you get an idea of the effort involved. All of December, all of January, almost all of February: the house is better organized than any time since we moved into it five years ago. Some of the particulars:

  • Okay, so having Colorado as a relative neighboring state leads to lots of Beavis and Butt-Head chuckling about “grow houses” these days, but technology allowed a big expansion. Namely, the whole need for a separate office for computer work died off with CRT monitors and landline phones, so the Czarina and I made a command decision: why waste two perfectly good rooms on our separate offices when we were doing all of our correspondence and show organizing on laptops anyway. The whole of an 11-day holiday vacation went into stripping out both rooms, converting one into work area and dry goods storage, and the other into an interior propagation area for tropical carnivores, orchids, ferns, and other flora that couldn’t handle the temperatures in the greenhouse. Technology also assisted with the propagation racks: LED shop lights may cost a little more than standard fluorescent fixtures, but they work beautifully for sundews, bladderworts, and the one Tahitian vanilla orchid that survived last summer. We’re not quite ready for a full-time retail venue, but it’s getting a lot closer, and the increased production means being able to do more shows in 2015. Best of all, the LEDs mean more light and less heat for less power, and the plan is to move to high-output LED fixtures before the end of the year for more light-hungry plant species.
  • While it’s been quiet out here otherwise in preparation for Texas Frightmare Weekend in May, it’s not that quiet. The Triffid Ranch leaves its hiatus for an appearance at the Discovery Days Earth event at the Perot Museum in downtown Dallas this coming April 11. Considering that we have a bit of a track record for late snow and sleetfall in March over the last half-decade, any last-minute freezes should help keep emerging temperate carnivores chilled so they start blooming in April. If things work well, this means showing off both Sarracenia pitcher plant and triggerplant blooms in time for the event. Details will follow.
  • Speaking of Texas Frightmare Weekend, the year-long hiatus means lots of preparation for the tenth annual Frightmare show, and not just with plants. This year’s Frightmare spread includes new displays, new items, and a lot of larger plant arrangements that were just too big to justify bringing out to previous events. All told, the plans required getting an additional table to hold everything, and we have live video from the house upon getting the news that a second table was available:
  • And after that? If we don’t get completely snowbound, the fun continues. Due to both Day Job schedule conflicts and various issues outside of the scope of this posting, three-day convention events aren’t going to be practical for most of 2015, but that means lots of one-day shows and lectures. Keep an eye open for details on these as well.
  • Some of the conflict on show schedules involves other factors, including several big secret projects over the next nine months. In addition, influenced by Reptiles magazine republishing my 2011 article on carnivores in reptile enclosures, expect not quite a book, but something almost as good, by the end of the year. Either way, I’ll be stuck to the couch, frantically writing away, when I’m not tinkering in the greenhouse.

Oh, and about the beautiful photo from the top of the post? One of the few good things that came from 2013’s Icepocalypse was a deeper understanding of citrus trees, especially my beloved Buddha’s Hand citron. After a decade of attempts to stave off bloom and fruit drop, December 2014 gave up three full-sized and completely ripe Cthulhufruit, and the greenhouse is currently full of blooms for this year’s crop. The trick, which hasn’t shown up in any citrus guide I’ve encountered in the last ten years, is that Buddha’s Hands require much more humidity than most citrus trees. Mexican limes and Meyer lemons thrive in Dallas levels of low humidity in spring and summer, but Cthulhufruit requires humidity that only rarely goes below 60 percent. Once I understood that, well, that promise of homemade Cthulhufruit bars becomes more plausible every winter, and maybe even in time for Cephalopodmas. And so it goes.