For newcomers, this is a semi-regular newsletter from the Texas Triffid Ranch, Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. Feel free to forward early and often, and to subscribe if you haven’t already.
Installment #33: “20 Years of Carnivorous Plants”
(Originally published August 25, 2022)
My ex used to complain about my packrat memory for odd anniversaries. Throw out a random date, and odds are good I can relate at least two major life experiences with it. This foul Year of Our Lord 2022 has been full of major anniversaries (April 2 marked the fortieth anniversary of the near-decapitation that led to the distinctive scar on my forehead and the thirtieth of my finishing the manuscript for my first book, for instance, and August 7 and December 28 are two that I’m desperately trying to forget), but September 23 will always be a cherished anniversary, no matter what, as my life completely changed from that point on. Today marks the first day I viewed a carnivorous plant in person, in situ.
The backstory on how the Triffid Ranch got its start has been related ad nauseam, but especial credit is owed to the Tallahassee Museum. This day twenty years ago, after finally pulling my old Neon into town and getting checked into the local Residence Inn, the urge to explore was irresistible, and when you leave Paul to his own devices, that urge usually runs toward museums. The Tallahassee Museum is just as much wildlife preserve as museum of natural and cultural history, and a display at the main admissions building contained a collection of purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) rescued from elsewhere on the Museum grounds. The real clincher, though, was going through the trails to view local animals and coming back to ask “Okay, everything else was well-labeled, but I couldn’t ID a snake and a plant in the skunk enclosure. Would anybody know what these are?”
Within two minutes, I had an answer: a king snake and a yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava). When I discovered that the Museum gift shop had a book on pitcher plants, one I still have in my library, it was all over. The plants owned me.
This is a roundabout way of noting that after things settle down a bit at the end of this year, it’s time to head back to Tallahassee. 2023 may be a year of road trips, both for Triffid Ranch shows (Aquashella Chicago is very high on the list) and for personal reasons (my maternal grandmother’s 100th birthday is coming up, and that justifies a trip to Michigan), and it may be time to go back to the end of the beginning.
Texas Frightmare Weekend 2023 is confirmed. Information about next year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows, both dates and cities, should be arriving shortly. In the interim, the big news with outside shows is being invited to lecture at the Dallas Arboretum on October 28 and then moving outside for a show and sale on October 28, 29. and 30. This means that the usual Halloween Porch Sale may have to run earlier, but heading out to the Arboretum means being able to see the Sarracenia pool in the Children’s Garden, so it all works out.
Well, the Triffid Ranch didn’t win the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Award, but I mean it when I say I was honored to be nominated. It still worked out, as writer Kendall Morgan came out to the gallery to write about the renovation. Just wait until the back area is complete: she and everyone else won’t know what to think.
It’s been a while since I’ve hyped up artist and amphibian breeder extraordinaire Ethan Kocak, but it’s definitely time. If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen his scientist account avatars; if you aren’t, then you may have seen his illustrations in the book Does It Fart? Either way, welcome to yet another rabbit hole.
More stuff in the mailbox this month, but two have special importance. For obvious reasons, the new Redfern Natural History volume New Nepenthes Volume 2 is essential reading, but so is The Art of Ron Cobb by Jacob Johnston. With the latter, this is the first collection of Cobb’s film work since his collection Colorvision from 1981: his pictogram icons throughout the Nostromo sets in Alien have been a long-running influence for usability experts, and I’m very glad to see them and everything else Cobb did reaching a new audience.
It’s been one hell of a month, which means finding an appropriate soundtrack, and September 2022’s soundtrack comes straight from the Gothsicles. Just trust me on this: between them and Stoneburner, I think I’ve already found the composers if anyone is masochistic enough to make a documentary on the Triffid Ranch.