Tag Archives: autumn color

State of the Gallery: October 2018

“We are now approaching the end of 2018, and will be crashing into 2019 shortly. Please return your solar cell array to its upright position, stow all weapons and sublight propulsion devices in the bins provided below your seat, and place your order for drinks or objective reality inhibitors with the flight attendant at this time. If you are a native to a reality with more than a 45 percent difference in strong nuclear force or Hawkwind music catalog from your destination, please let the flight crew know at this time to prevent spontaneous explosion when disembarking. Your checked-in luggage has been sprayed for most animal and plant pests, parasites, and symbionts, but please check for nanometal phages in a safe location in any reality with a tech rating above 3.73.998. We thank you for flying with us today, and a special message for Lanny: stop it. Stop it NOW. The authorities already know, and they’re not giving it back.”

Twelve weeks to the end of the year, and this is when life starts getting lively out at the Triffid Ranch. For the temperate carnivores, we’re only about six weeks away from the beginning of the traditional winter dormancy, which means the Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and triggerplants are about ready to sleep until April.  The tropical plants in the gallery already think it’s winter, with lights set for a December 21 photoperiod, in order to encourage them to bloom around the beginning of March.  Pretty soon, the dragonfruit cactus by the front door comes inside, the next batch of hot pepper seeds go into propagation, and this year’s collection of Sarracenia seeds go into cold storage until March. That’s not even starting with the new plants grown from cuttings for next year’s show season.

A lot is going on besides getting the greenhouse winterproofed and the Sarracenia pools mucked out, too. The fall show season starts on October 13, with an inaugural tent set up at the Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas, with the usual bets as to how the weather will go.  The default assumption for autumn in North Texas is “cloudy and a little cool in the morning, with temperatures dropping significantly with any storm front.” In other words, bring a jacket just in case, and come out to see Sarracenia pitcher plants in full fall color. 

After coming out for Garland Urban Flea, take the next weekend off. Seriously: take it off, because the gallery will be closed that weekend. That’s because the next Triffid Ranch open house opens on Friday, October 26 at 6:00 post meridian, and a lot is happening in the intervening week. This includes the premieres of several new enclosures, including a commission for a longtime Triffid Ranch supporter, and the last big flytrap and Sarracenia display until next year. Traditionally, open houses run on Saturday evenings, but on the request of several longtime customers (including one that has been visiting the booth at various events for the last decade), we’re going to try Friday night so as to free up Saturday night for Halloween events.

After that, it’s a matter of getting ready for November and December. November is a month of shows, starting with the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin on November 11, for the third show in a row. After that, November 24 and 24 are spent closer to home, with the resurrected Dallas Fantasy Fair at the Irving Convention Center. Once we’ve swept up the broken glass and discarded pizza boxes from that one, it’s back to the gallery for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, with the gallery open every Saturday evening from December 1 to 22. (For those who want to purchase a particular enclosure but don’t want to ruin the surprise, we’ll deliver in person on December 23 and 24, so feel free to ask for details.)

On the newsletter front, the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale continues, especially as Facebook continues its descent into emulating LiveJournal. (And lower than that I can’t get.) The big Harlan Ellison giveaway for subscribers is done, but expect a slightly more scaled-down version with every issue of the newsletter: I haven’t had this much fun putting together this big a collection of packages in years, and that’s nothing compared to the glee of those who receive them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, there’s always time, as a new installment comes out this week. It may also be time for an archive, too.

And that’s about it for the moment. What’s up with you?

End of Sarracenia Season – 4

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

End of Sarracenia Season – 3

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

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Sarracenia purpurea

End of Sarracenia Season – 2

Sarracenia

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Sarracenia

End of Sarracenia Season – 1

Sarracenia

And so the Sarracenia growing season ends. Last week’s surprise but not completely unexpected hard frost finally put paid to the taller growth in the Sarracenia pools, and they don’t have much longer until all of them go brown and die back. Considering the weather forecast for next week, with lows pushing freezing, we’ll get a classic Sarracenia autumn: lots of brilliant color as the traps die off, and then quiet until spring.

Sarracenia

One of the benefits of the heightened color is that the insects still around are even more mesmerized by the coloration, and the plants have no problems taking advantage of the arthropod bounty. This way, the plants get one last boost of nitrogen and phosphorus before the winter sleep, and in anticipation of large and healthy blooms in March. More than at any other time during the growing season, this is when passing by a Sarracenia stand yields the odd sound of flying insects attempting to fly or climb out of the pitchers, only to have the shape of the pitchers produce a downdraft towards the depths every time they try to fly out. The pitchers also act as acoustic horns, so that angry buzzing travels a lot further than one would expect.

Well-fed Sarracenia

And what’s in the pitchers? This time of the year, it’s usually a combination of moths and bees, both attracted by the pitchers’ fluorescence under UV and by a particularly generous secretion of nectar along the lid and lip. This year was surprising, though, because a significant number of traps also caught at least one stink bug at a time. I don’t know if they were attracted by the nectar or the promise of a hiding spot, but there’s a satisfaction in knowing that next year’s stink bug population drops every time the plants feed.

Well-fed Sarracenia

And a moment of transitory beauty

Autumn color in North Texas

Admittedly, it’s due to both that sudden freeze we had two weeks ago and our current unnaturally dry autumn, but anyone want to tell me again about how North Texas doesn’t get fall color? (As noted before, this is definitely due to our current lack of precipitation, because I’ve passed these trees for years on my way to the Day Job, and never once seen a smidgen of color from them before. I’m glad for the moment of beauty, but I’ll also be very, VERY glad when we start getting rain again. It’s getting to be a bit too much like 1952, meteorologically speaking, to suit me.)

November in Texas

Autumn in Texas

The summer wasn’t as intense as last year’s, but the tougher the summer, the more brilliant the autumn colors. Compared to, say, Vermont, we have little more than pastels, but we’re also getting autumn colors in shirtsleeve weather in the middle of November.

Autumn in Texas

Pre-fall colors

Just in preparation for those looking forward to some autumn foliage color in Texas, here are “before” shots, on a sunny morning after one of the foggiest nights we’ve had in months, to get you ready for the “after”. Considering the reasonably wet summer we’ve had, and the wonderfully humid conditions over the last week, we might actually get some decent tree color this autumn. Watch this space for details.

Texas tree coloration in September

Texas tree coloration, detail

And yes, this is the closest we get to forests out here. Deal with it. If I wanted trees so tall that I suffered claustrophobia while driving, I’d move back to Tallahassee…which might not be a bad option if the opportunity presented itself.

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn: Autumn Edition

Most people don’t think of North Texas as a place running rampant with autumn color. We definitely don’t have anything to compare with the fiery sugar maples of Vermont or the canary ginkgos of Oregon, but we get a lot of interesting pastels. Get up high, as in the top floor of an office building or landing at DFW Airport, and you might be surprised at how much color other than “brown and dead” we get that isn’t easily visible from the ground.

Every once in a while, though, the place will surprise you. Halloween 1993 came in with record subfreezing temperatures, so we learned how many of our indigenous trees change color if given the opportunity. Crape myrtles, for instance, shift to a brilliant Tyrolean purple when hit with a good stout freeze before the leaves fall for the season. In tough years, though, sometimes the beauty can stun you, especially if you get up before dawn to look at the area first thing in the morning.

Texas-style autumn color

This, by the way, was taken from right on the border of Garland (yes, the Garland, Texas mocked at the beginning of the movie Zombieland) and Richardson, right on the edge of one of Garland’s many parks. Between the autumn foliage and the occasional armadillo scampering toward the woods, it’s sometimes worth the effort to get up early.

Closeup of autumn color