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Originally published on September 17, 2018
So it’s been raining a bit in the Dallas area this September. A good thunderstorm on Labor Day is so common that nobody is particularly surprised, but then we usually go for about three weeks of heat and dry until one good cold front passes through, bringing a classic Texas gullywasher with it. After that, we enter traditional Texas autumn, which generally runs until the end of November. Warm and dry in October is expected: the last time we actually got cold at Halloween was in 1993, where temperatures surprisingly went below freezing and we had probably our only serious fall color in a generation. This September, though, the rains keep coming. We got the usual Labor Day downpour, and then we kept Houston-level humidity interspersed with flash rains.
One of Dallas’s more entertaining meteorological phenomena is our propensity toward very compact and very intense storms forming out of nowhere, so anyone driving along Central Expressway in the late afternoon would have seen the east side of Central with a bare misting of rain and the west side so inundated that visibility was close to zero. That’s before the rains really picked up: by midnight, we received a full six inches (15.24 cm) at the greenhouse, and the rain kept coming all Saturday. We could at least blame that on the remnants of a tropical storm blasting through, but the rest of the week? Abnormally (and much appreciated) cool temperatures AND a nearly constant misting, with no significant breaks for the immediate future.
Naturally, the Sarracenia are beside themselves with joy.
As a rule, North Texas has two growing seasons, separated by the lead smelter exhaust we fondly call “summer.” The spring growing season starts somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March, depending upon how many sudden cold snaps, surprise frosts, and occasional ice and snow storms interrupt the progression. With only a couple of exceptions in the last 50 years, the St. Patrick’s Day weekend is the point of no return, where the odds of another killing freeze drop to close to nothing. The cold frames and cloches go into storage very quickly, as April temperatures rapidly turn these into vegetable steamers. All cold-weather crops such as spinach are long-dead by the beginning of May, and everything generally stops by the middle of June. At that point, we’re both too hot and too dry for much growth of any sort, and all of the indigenous flora either burns off or goes dormant for the rest of the summer.
Autumn is when everything comes back, and that particularly applies to carnivores. Pretty much all temperate carnivores react to the change in weather by growing new leaves and traps, but Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants go overboard in both size and color. Even pitcher plants with a mediocre appearance in spring tend to have brighter colors in autumn, but white pitchers (Sarracenia leucophylla) make up for lost time in September and October. And that’s under a typical Dallas autumn, with long dry interludes between rainstorms. This September, combine abnormally cool temperatures with a long and steady mist, and the leucophylla are going berserk. At this rate, they’ll be pulling their roots up and going for walks by October 1, and they’ll keep this up well past Halloween, or until night temperatures approach freezing, whichever comes first.
And the absolute best part of the boon in good carnivore weather? Both Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps fluoresce strongly under ultraviolet light at about 380 nanometers, but some carnivores fluoresce across a wider range than others. Sarracenia leucophylla in particular fluoresces under moonlight, which helps explain why its trap contents tend to contain an inordinate number of moths, click beetles, and other completely nocturnal prey. With the Harvest Moon on September 24 and the Hunter’s Moon on October 24, anyone in the Dallas area with leucophyllas in their carnivorous plant collections are going to be blown away. With the number of Datura stramonium flowers growing alongside the Triffid Ranch greenhouse, the effect of the full moon at zenith will quote a rather popular film at the gallery: “it’s so dark, it’ll blind you.” That is, if the storm clouds ever fade.
Recent updates to the web site:
New enclosure: “Raptor” (2018)
New enclosure: “Tezcatlipoca Blues” (2018)
New Article: “Shoutout For a Friend”
New Article: “State of the Gallery: September 2018”
Firstly, those who participated in the drawing for free Harlan Ellison books should have your randomly selected paperbacks or hardcovers, along with other neat items for neat people. Well, with the exception of you, Volly. You got the best of the lot: autographed copies of The Last Dangerous Visions and the autobiography Working Without A Net, as well as DVDs of the first four seasons of Cutter’s World. Hang onto those, because they might be valuable one of these days, right alongside the twentieth anniversary issue of Science Fiction Eye.
And for those who came to the newsletter by way of the recent Harlan Ellison giveaway, I’d like to note that Harlan Ellison Books is putting out not one but FOUR new books, including the definitive Blood’s A Rover collection. One of the collections contains the just-rediscovered scripts and synopsis for Man Without Time, a TV series intended to star Leonard Nimoy after the cancellation of Star Trek, and the story of how it was found is just as intriguing as the series concept. Preorder now so you don’t get disappointed when it sells out within minutes.
For those in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, September doesn’t just mean “a welcome break from the soul-crippling heat of summer.” It also means “reptile show season,” particularly with the NARBC reptile and amphibian show at the Arlington Convention Center on September 22 and 23. The Triffid Ranch won’t have a booth this year (although I’m thinking very long and hard about September 2019), but just look for the albino with the Triffid Ranch T-shirt on a mad quest for cork bark, Tillandsias, and axolotls.
And speaking of reptiles, it is my great pleasure to announce that the Texas Triffid Ranch just entered a partnership with DFW Reptarium in Plano to exhibit and sell Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant enclosures. Right now, we’re starting small, with the opportunity to view the big Nepenthes bicalcarata enclosure “Hans-Ruedi,” but expect a lot of exclusives as business picks up. At the very least, DFW Reptarium is without doubt the best reptile and amphibian shop available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the last 20 years, so come in to view Nepenthes and stay to look over panther chameleons, frilled dragons, arrow-poison frogs, and an absolutely beautiful crocodile monitor named Whisper. Whisper is worth making a lunch break trip just on her own.
Inside the Sideshow Studio (2015, Insight Editions, ISBN 978-1-60887-476-1)
Finding this in big piles at the local Half Price Books doesn’t diminish its value: this is a book that didn’t reach the audience that needed to see it. While the layout suggested that this would be a nice “look at how cool our workplace is compared to your horrible open office nightmare” press release, this is actually a very illuminating view of the organization necessary when a creative company grows beyond the “two people in a garage” stage. Just about anybody in book publishing, magazines, comics, games electronic and print, collectibles, Web content sites, and weekly newspapers has tales of venues and businesses that went under because one or two people simply couldn’t let go of an area wildly outside of their expertise, or who figured that continuity between products or product lines was unnecessary. Yes, the book has a lot of photos of employees’ work areas as all of the cool toys and accoutrements found on pretty much every desk of every tech job of the last twenty years. No, there’s nowhere near enough of an explanation of the essential tools and resources and how they differ from the office toys. That said, the book emphasizes the different essential departments in a successful licensed property company, from packaging art to publicity to shipping, by noting how everyone works together for a successful release.
I could say a lot about the musical adventure that goes by the name of Ego Likeness, and add a few notes about side projects like Stoneburner and Hopeful Machines, but that would be cheating. A decade ago, I came across my first sample of the brilliance of Steven Archer and Donna Lynch thanks to a mixer CD containing the song “Water to the Dead” and “16 Miles,” and their work is a regular part of the Triffid Ranch workshop soundtrack. Sadly, I have yet to see a live Ego Likeness show: although Austin and San Antonio have a firm appreciation of Ego Likeness genius, no venue in Dallas is willing to take a chance on a booking. Let’s fix that, shall we?
The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale is copyright 2018 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced 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. And in a reality very close to ours, every film starring Mel Gibson has his parts replaced by Mel Brooks, and vice versa. Let’s see if anybody notices.