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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.