Monthly Archives: January 2019

Have a Great Weekend

Have a good time this weekend. Stay warm. Don’t let the Morlocks bite.

No Sleep Til Perot

Perot Museum's glowing frogs

For those attending tonight’s Social Science night at the Perot Museum, see you there. For everyone who can’t, that’s why the gallery is hosting a Groundhog Day open house on February 2. Either way, it’s time to hit the road.

Have a Great Weekend

The last weekend before things start getting really interesting for 2019, and we have a soundtrack for everybody:

State of the Gallery: January 2019

January skies: cold and dark

Coming up on the new gallery’s second anniversary, the main theme around the Triffid Ranch this month is…cleaning. Lots of cleaning, shifting, moving, sorting, cataloguing, and launching into the sun. Pots and containers that almost made sense when they were originally purchased three years ago but simply can’t cut the mustard today. Glues and other adhesives that didn’t age well.  Electrical fixtures purchased years before the gallery originally opened that are now desperately obsolete based on today’s technology. Equipment and supplies purchased for big projects that fell through, usually when the client only wanted to pay in exposure. Items that fell literally between the cracks in those frantic days during and after the move from Valley View Center. Combine this with a renovation of the actual toolspace, and the gallery is as close to ergonomic as it’s been since the beginning of 2017. You know, when the space was empty. 

(Seriously, folks, take it from a professional: DO NOT STOCKPILE GLUES. Buy what you need when you need it, or what you reasonably think you can use within a month. Most of your cyanoacrylate superglues will last longer, but there’s nothing quite like desperately needing silicone sealer for a project, slapping a presumably fresh cartridge into the caulking gun, cranking it up to put down a bead of fresh silicone, and getting instead a bead of what looks and feels like transparent cottage cheese with no adhesive properties whatsoever. Don’t even get me started on wood glues: old wood glue looks like snot, it smells like snot, and it has a third of the holding power of snot. Not only will your projects fall apart, but then everyone visiting will assume that your workspace does double duty as a preschool.)

That’s the situation at the moment: with everyone still recovering from holiday stress, the best thing to do is get everything around for the rest of the year, and that’s very nearly literally complete. I can’t say that previous visitors won’t recognize the new gallery, but it definitely has a lot less of the Doctor Who/The Red Green Show mashup feel than in previous months. Well, I SAY that, but you should see some of the odd Halloween pots picked up when a Pier One distributor shut down their local showcase office two years ago. And this applies until it’s time to restock glassware after selling everything during the spring show season.

As far as events are concerned, we had to make a tough decision earlier this week, and the Triffid Ranch won’t be at All-Con in the middle of March. This wasn’t done lightly, and it mostly involved schedule conflicts with the day job, which is why we really had no choice. The schedule is going to be filled with more one-day events through the rest of the year, but four-day events aren’t going to be an option for the foreseeable future. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 30 is still on, though, as well as other events to be announced very shortly.

Likewise, we’re still on for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science’s Social Science: Wild World 21+ event on January 25: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are dormant for the winter, but the Mexican butterwort blooms in the gallery make up for it. For those who have already picked up their tickets, the Triffid Ranch exhibit will be on the fourth floor, not far away from the Protostega skeleton. If this works well, negotiations are ongoing about returning for the Social Science: Science Fiction show on April 26: between this and Tim Curry’s guest appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend the very next weekend, I’m honestly looking forward to fictional carnivorous plant references that don’t involve people yelling “Feed me, Seymour!” over and over and my inevitable response.

Oh, and another benefit of the final gallery cleanup: besides freeing up room for new projects, this also allows the opportunity to restart a program put on hiatus after the Valley View exodus. Some of you may remember Sid, the Nepenthes bicalcarata pet at the long-defunct and much-missed Role2Play gaming store in Coppell, and it’s time to expand the rental program that allowed Sid to make such an impression. Bookstores, dentist offices, classrooms, business lobbies: Triffid Ranch enclosure rentals offer the opportunity to show off unique carnivorous plant displays without having to deal with maintenance and upkeep. Keep checking back, because the details will be available very soon, or feel free to drop a line to become an early implementer.

Have a Great Weekend

Experiments: Hylocereus megalanthus

Hylocereus megalanthus (yellow dragonfruit)

Contrary to popular opinion, the Triffid Ranch doesn’t focus solely on carnivorous plants. The last ten years have been a boot camp on care and propagation of two species of the Hylocereus climbing cactus known commonly as “dragonfruit.” Getting seeds for the two most common species, white (H. undatus) and red (H. costaricensis), was exceedingly easy as dragonfruit continue their rise in popularity in American markets. (An extra surprise for those wanting to buy carnivorous plant seeds: since dragonfruit seeds are almost identical to Venus flytrap seeds, scammers sell a lot of dragonfruit seeds all over Amazon and eBay.) Every reference I could find about the yellow dragonfruit cactus, H. megalanthus, though, noted that it was very hard to find outside of Central America, and a business trip to Nicaragua turned up other species growing under live oak trees but no fruit. By last New Year’s Eve, I’d given up on finding any, so guess what happened when my wife pointed out a new entry at our local Asian market?

Hylocereus megalanthus (yellow dragonfruit) -sliced

Getting one home, several things presented themselves as I went to work with a knife. Firstly, these fruit were imported from Ecuador, suggesting either that Ecuadorean farmers are competing with the big red and white dragonfruit farms in Vietnam, or that there’s something about megalanthus propagation that makes growing them in the Americas much easier. Secondly, as compared to the firm and crunch flesh of other species, megalanthus fruit is just pulpy enough that they’re shipped in the same padded netting used for Asian pears to keep them from bruising during transport. Thirdly, while most Americans are disappointed by the very delicate flavor of red and white dragonfruit (that delicacy, incidentally, is why I love them and could eat them all day), megalanthus fruit has a very distinctive sweet flavor, much like the syrup in canned fruit cocktail. Get the word out to chefs and bartenders in the States and Europe, and Ecuador will have to quintuple dragonfruit production just to keep up with demand.

Yellow dragonfruit (Hylocereus megalanthus) seeds in propagation

Oh, and the most interesting part besides the color of the peel? Yellow dragonfruit seeds are HUGE compared to those of other Hylocereus species. They’re still perfectly edible, and they add a very satisfying crunch when inhaling the fourth yellow dragonfruit of the night, but this suggests further research on which animals are used as vectors for those seeds: I’m putting down early money on lizards and tortoises as well as birds. On any case, most of the remaining fruit went into propagation, using techniques that are very productive for the other commercially grown Hylocereus species: tall pots under a propagation dome, with the fruit scraped out of the rind, spread out atop potting mix in thin strips, and more potting mix put on top to facilitate decay of the pulp. In about a month, we’ll learn if this worked: wish me luck.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #5

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on December 18, 2018

Okay, so the holiday season is going full tilt, with the expected diminishing of daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. All of the temperate carnivores, particularly flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants, should be in full dormancy by now, and stay there until at least the middle of March. Nepenthes and Cephalotus pitcher plants may not need a similar full dormancy, but they certainly won’t mind a relative rest, and giving them lowered daylight hours increases the odds of their blooming in spring if they’re mature enough. Orchids, gesneriads, aloes, euphorbias, citrus…all of these definitely appreciate a bit of rest during the winter months. The trick is knowing HOW much of a rest, and of what kind.

 For most, the rest period is determined by photoperiod, the number of light hours a plant receives per day. (One could argue that thanks to axial tilt, winter light intensity is diminished alongside the number of hours, but we’ll leave that out of the conversation for now.) As far as carnivores and protocarnivores are concerned, even species generally considered to grow all year around could use a photoperiod rest through the winter, with either decreased light or cooler temperatures or both. Tropical carnivores such as Nepenthes pitcher plants and bladderworts use photoperiod as a cue to store up energy for blooming in spring, and the tuberous sundews of Australia use photoperiod to prepare for emergence in the monsoon season. Want really spectacular blooms in spring with tropical sundews and bladderworts? Give them a rest now by matching the photoperiod of plants under lights with the outside dawn/dusk cycle. If that’s not practical, at least cut plant light to nine to ten hours per day.

With both plants under lights and ones in a windowsill, make sure to protect your plant from excessive artificial light outside of that winter lighting schedule. Moonlight is generally too weak to affect plants, and they’re already adapted to it, but street lights, porch lights, living room lamps, kitchen lights, and even nearby nightlights can adversely affect some plants’ ability to bloom. Poinsettias are an extreme example: getting those brilliant red bracts in time for Christmas requires putting them into a closet or other lightproof space at night. One flashlight, one open closet door, one porch light turned on at the wrong time before the poinsettia is ready, and you’re going to have to wait for next year.

 The worst part of this is that it seems counterintuitive, especially for those of us with SADS. Right at the time when we’re craving more and more energetic lights, photoperiod-dependent plants are asking for a cessation of hostilities. Yes, not being able to enjoy them in winter is aggravating, but come spring, when they’re exploding with blooms, you’ll be glad to have let them sleep in.

What You’ve Missed:

Oh, dear. It’s been a little while since the last newsletter, with more than a few shows and updates since then. Recent updates to the web site include:

Enclosures: Hans-Ruedi II (2018)

Enclosures: Hoodoo (2018)

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays V

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Hawaiian Holiday Popup 2018

Personal Interlude: The Honeymoon Wall

Other News

 Well, never let it be said that the Triffid Ranch doesn’t jump onto a social media trend a half-decade after everyone else does. For those who have lovingly nuhdzed me for the last two years about setting up an Instagram account, go check out @txtriffidranch right now. For those who haven’t, head over there anyway.

Recommended Reading

Because it’s that season, it’s time to look back on the basics. Both for beginning carnivorous plant enthusiasts and those experienced growers wanting to expand their range, you can’t go wrong with the 20-year classic, The Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato. You can get more detail on carnivorous plant morphology, relationships, and ecology with the Redfern Natural History volumes, but as far as good growing tips and propagation methods, you can’t beat D’Amato’s tried and true techniques. While the original 1998 edition is still a valuable guide, the recent updated version is worth the money, especially if you to get an autographed copy.

Music

Some of you fellow Eighties brats may remember the British metal band Bad News, either for the two pseudodocumentaries on the BBC’s The Comic Strip Presents, its live tour, or its sole album. A few may have specific opinions about lead singer and guitarist Vim Fuego, guitarist Colin Grigson, bassist Den Dennis, and drummer Spider Webb Spider Webb (as played by Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, and Peter Richardson), and a few might even notice significant similarities between the two pseudodocumentaries and a pseudodocumentary that came out a year later about a band named Spinal Tap. For everyone else, it’s time for you to become familiar with a criminally overlooked vestige of Twentieth Century heavy metal history, if only for a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary release of the greatest holiday metal song ever written, “Cashing In On Christmas.” 

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale is copyright 2018 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced in its entirety and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.txtriffidranch.com. With the announcement of Pantone’s new color for 2019, I now want to breed a rose that color, and name the cultivar “Rick Grimes.”

Have a Great Weekend

And only 75 days until the first day of spring!