Monthly Archives: April 2013

Countdown to Frightmare

71 hours away from the opening of Texas Frightmare Weekend, and sleep is something I hear about. Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the first-ever Triffid Ranch show, at the sadly defunct CAPE Day, so it’s a matter of pulling stops and raising expectations. The only way things are going to get even better is if I can get those Pink Bunkadoo seeds I bought last year to sprout in time for the show.

In any case, expect a bit of radio silence until then, as the rest of the week goes toward repotting, arranging, and packing. Oh, and taking photos of how well Sarracenia and Nepenthes pitchers fluoresce under violet lasers. Catch everyone there.

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Cat Monday

Leiber

Have A Great Weekend

Flashbacks from 24 years ago, and pretty much my theme song today…

Projects: Living in the future

One of the side effects of last weekend’s show at the Perot Museum was the realization that there’s not really an easy way to show people the inside of a pitcher plant, no matter the particular genus or species, without a bit of help. Sarracenia pitcher lids can be bent back a bit, but it’s hard for a group to get a peek inside without risking damage to the pitcher. It’s even worse with Nepenthes pitchers, and trying to do some investigation of Cephalotus pitchers? Forget it. This requires a bit of technology.

The question started up yesterday afternoon, when a trip to the allergist made me think “What about an endoscope? I mean, if you can use one to view the inside of someone’s trachea, how hard can it be to get one that can be slipped down a carnivorous plant pitcher to view the inside?” All of a sudden, the possibilities: surveys of prey items and their numbers, searching for various animals living inside, investigating the difference in prey caught at night and during the day, all without having to cut the pitcher open.

That’s when an old friend in New York turned me onto USB-ready endoscopes, complete with adjustable LEDs for illuminating the view. They’re already waterproof for viewing plumbing issues, so they’re absolutely perfect for getting into the equally slimy and grungy environment found inside a Nepenthes pitcher. Better yet, between getting live video through a computer screen and taking screen captures, presentations at museums and schools just got a LOT more interesting.

Thank you, Pat, for the help. Now I need to find a really small one, otherwise with the same features, for getting into really small plants. It may be time to look further at Nepenthes ampullaria as a tadpole nursery.

Earth Day at the Perot: The Aftermath

Malawisaurus

A full decade after heading out on this odd path, I can finally say that I’ve hit the big time: a Triffid Ranch presentation at the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science last weekend. The Czarina was in Galveston on her own business, so it was just me, the plants, and about 50,000 utterly fascinated kids and adults asking questions. I don’t think I’m exaggerating as to the number, either. I now understand how adults felt when I was a kid, asking questions that they had to scramble to answer, because I think I met most of the Ph.D candidates of the high school class of 2020. Their parents weren’t slacking off, either: when one gentleman came through and related how he’d seen Sarracenia pitcher plants for years while stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, but didn’t know what they were until then, a crowd gathered just to listen to him. Heck, people turned away from the Malawisaurus skeleton in the main lobby to listen to him.

Triffid Ranch display at the Perot

Since this was a lecture event, and not a sale, variety was much more important than volume. This meant displays of (from the left) sticky traps (sundews, butterworts, triggerplants), active traps (Venus flytraps, bladderworts), and passive pitfall traps (Sarracenia and Nepenthes pitcher plants, and a lone Brocchinia bromeliad), while explaining how each and every one worked. Next time, I’m including guides on how these operate, but this worked well enough that even the volunteers there on both days came over to find out more.

Assorted Sarracenia

Assorted Sarracenia

Maybe it’s the new greenhouse, or maybe it’s just the fluctuating weather (we’ve had temperatures dropping well below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) at least one night per week for the last month, which almost never happens in April in Texas), but the Sarracenia pitcher plants just exploded this year. Huge pitchers, equally gigantic blooms, and lots of color. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Sarracenia purpurea

Sarracenia purpurea, or purple pitcher plant: the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador. I admit that I find it hard not to sing “O Canada” every time I look over one of these, and this one was just the right size for visitors to look inside the pitchers at the insect part debris already caught inside.

Brocchinia reductans

And then there was the real surprise for new attendees: an example of the carnivorous bromeliad Brocchinia reductans of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana, courtesy of Jacob and Jeff at Sarracenia Northwest. This was an especial surprise for one young woman attending on Sunday: she was a fashion designer from Venezuela here in Dallas visiting family, and she was amazed that such a plant existed, much less existed as close to her home. One of these days, I need to plan a botanical trip to South America, right after I finish trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Antarctica, Newfoundland…

As for the Perot, this simultaneously left me exhausted and hoping for more, so we’ll see if I’m invited back in the future. I’ve already volunteered to lecture at one of the Social Science events for adults, but any excuse to come out there is a good one. After all, the Czarina and I have history there, even if it’s only been open for six months.

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Cat Monday

Leiber

Have A Great Weekend