Category Archives: Projects

Interlude: A Matter of Conversions

Thesis: Just over two decades after Apple changed computer design forever with the first iMac, the technology inside is best described as “quaint”. In 1998, the decision to be the first personal computer to jettison the floppy disk drive was as prophetic as adding a USB connector, but nobody expected the standard cathode-ray tube monitor to itself become completely obsolete a decade later. Downloads and streaming removing the need for CD-ROM drives, the hard drives becoming increasingly obsolete, and more actual processing power and functionality in the first generation of iPhones…22 years after that first 233mHz Bondi Blue iMac hit computer stores, there’s not a lot that the innards can do that can’t be done faster and cheaper with current tech, but that wonderful, beautiful polycarbonate shell is a different story.

Thanks to two former school computers gifted at the beginning of the last decade and a client who really wanted them as plant enclosures, it was time to go back and try making new iTerrariums from two stages of the iMac evolution: one converted from the first-generation Bondi Blue model circa 1998, and one from the much faster 400mHz Graphite model from 2001. Both had the classic handle on the back cut out and used as an access door, but the Graphite had one ring of ventilation holes around the handle that made its conversion much easier. The Graphite also had a plastic cradle that suspended the interior up against a support plate that also held the monitor and the speakers, and since the plate was polystyrene, it didn’t survive its slow journey through the Twenty-First Century in one piece. The original one disintegrated while attempting to fit glass over the monitor aperture: thankfully, I had a spare.

In both cases, quite literally, the bottom plate was relatively easy to waterproof and ready for holding soil mix, even around the ports for the power input and the peripherals. If anything, the Graphite had a smoother bottom thanks to that support cradle, but both were finished, sealed, and readied for the client.

As for lighting, previous iTerrariums used standard 17x LED bulbs because waterproof lights of that intensity didn’t exist at the time. Ah, how the world changes in less than a decade. More light, less heat, and a significantly reduced risk of electric shock, as well as a more modular system where the entire enclosure can be moved much more easily.

In any case, these won’t be the last dead tech conversions to come out of the Triffid Ranch, but these will be some of the last iMac conversions for a while. Worthy iMacs may not be as rare as Eighties-era console televisions, but they’re getting there, and when I go through the last available shells, that’ll be it. The important part is that the client will be happy, and now it’s time to move to other projects.

Enclosures: “Witchstone” (2019)

witchstone_12292019_1A pulse. A glow. A flash. A strobe. Sometimes nothing at all. Of all of the wonders of Burin IV, the most renowned is the Witchstone Array, near the outpost town of Cottingley. Many swear that the stones visible in the Array glow in sequence at night, while others relate sudden bursts, random or nonrandom patterns, color changes, and even a beam coming from the lens in the center focusing on a hilltop on the other side of the Cottingley Valley. A few, a sensitive few, swear that they can hear the stones buried at the base of the Array, mostly random noises, but occasionally a voice murmuring about past glories, and sometimes a warning about the future that slides by before the conscious mind can perceive it. Everyone sees something different, even those standing right next to each other, and the mechanism as to how or why is as lost as the Array’s creators.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plants:  Unknown Nepenthes hybrid

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

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Enclosure: “D-Ring” (2019)

The galaxy is positively littered with artifacts, structures, and detritus from any number of otherwise cryptic civilizations, but the greatest mystery documented by the existing organizations endeavoring to track those archaeological sites involves what are commonly called “dimensional rings” found on approximately 5000 worlds and counting. The worlds themselves seem to have no common factor: superVenuses, the moons of gas giants, dwarf planets in a system’s Kuiper Belt or locked in orbit around neutron and X-ray stars, and rocky Earthlike worlds with atmospheres of nitrogen, oxygen, sulfuric acid, or methane. All of them share two attributes: all of them are composed of metals that are completely nonreactive in the atmosphere of that world, if applicable, and all available analysis techniques suggest an age of the rings at approximately 25 billion years old. Since our universe is at best approximately 14 billion years old, the arguments between experts in physics, archaeology, metallurgy, and xenoengineering are spectacular just within one species, and the debate on the D-rings between any significant consortium of sentients is something to witness.

Contrary to their popular name, no evidence exists to confirm that the rings come from an alternate dimension, reality, or quantum state, other than their immense age. Further, although remains of later outposts and cities can be found in abundance, sometimes in layers, not the slightest hint of the builders remains anywhere. The metals of which the rings are composed are not found elsewhere, and of the few carefully disassembled, no unique machinery, chemical activity, or other action can be found. The most common theories are that the rings are a portal either through space or time, albeit with no evidence to back it up, and military forces have been set up in front of rings for millions of years by a succession of species in the assumption that someone or something will come through a newly active gateway. Less popular is that the rings were an escape route for the peoples of the universe before the current Big Bang and universal expansion, thus explaining their age, but with no explanation of how they have only been found on planets and moons and never floating in deep space. A very unpopular theory, because of the implications, is that the D-rings are deliberately inactive while awaiting a signal so as to stymie further analysis and possible replication, and the list of possible sources of signal bandwidth have been proposed over the last 300,000 years by some of the greatest scientists ever produced in our galaxy. The problem, of course, is whether the signal was sent before any current species could detect it, the signal has yet to be sent, or if the signal will be recognized as such before the D-rings accomplish their purpose. As of late, strange gravitational wave signals possibly suggesting an intelligent origin coming from a series of cluster galaxies near the perceived center of the universe have kept social, military, and religious leaders from either sleep or meditation, but nothing is certain until the rings activate, if they will or even can.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plant: Heliamphora minor

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

Enclosures: “Gyre” (2019)

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Galactic history is best described as flowing in waves, as major movements of all sorts leave huge amounts of flotsam to be dealt with those on the shore. Major expansions by new species qualify, as do wars that spread outside of planetary systems and particularly those that spread outside of a particular arm of the galaxy. The military expansion of the En/Snap/Blue, a species originating on the rim of the galaxy, qualified as both. Combining an enthusiastic birth rate, a common language that was exceedingly hard for those species unable to view nuances in ultraviolet to decipher, and a powerful lust to be recognized, the En/Snap/Blue both shoved themselves into intergalactic affairs and took rapid offense at any mistranslation of their needs. War was perhaps inevitable, and the creations of the brilliant war designer Ar/Click/380nm allowed his people to plow across the galaxy before finally being stopped by what still qualifies as one of the greatest and most enduring alliances in history. The En/Snap/Blue were utterly destroyed, fighting to the last outpost with no quarter asked or taken, and every last war construct only stilled with overwhelming firepower that left little more than occasional bits of scrap. To this day, the ultimate goals of the En/Snap/Blue are unknown, and the search for understanding leads to huge expeditions seeking even rumors of a surviving settlement or outpost, occupied or not.

Unknown to the rest of the universe, one last outpost remains, hidden in plain sight. Ar/Click/380nm’s labs and testing yards were built not on an individual planet, but within an entire planetary system on a star orbiting the whole of the galaxy but not actually part, concealed from most detection with an array of neutron stars arranged in a dodecahedron pattern. Not only did this warp light around the system, essentially rendering it invisible to those without advanced gravitic manipulation technologies, but the neutron stars could also be shifted for attack, albeit slowly. How Ar/Click/380nm could develop gravitic theory thousands of years ahead of any other species in the galaxy, much less in a single lifetime, is unknown, but its war apparatus, combining both killing power and a keen artistic aesthetic, could jumpstart the ambitions of a dozen species if one example could be collected and studied. Also unknown to the rest of the universe, the space-time bubble created by the neutron star array is full of the greatest weapons Ar/Click/380nm ever developed, all collected in one place for one final movement.

What no other scholar of the En/Snap/Blue ever learned was that not only was Ar/Click/380nm the last survivor of its species and the guardian of its species’s legacy, but it was increasingly horrified at the ongoing war. As the war ground to its inevitable conclusion, Ar/Click/380nm sequestered itself in its enclave, obsessed with apologizing for the actions of its people. For the last five years of its life, long after the rest of its species was extinct, it converted the automated war yards not to new weapons development, but to a composition: a song of grief, a song of remorse, a song of regret, all to be broadcast via resonation of the neutron star array and detectable by any species with the ability to detect gravity waves. The first broadcast was the key, the second was the symphony, and the third would be the explosion as the neutron stars closed in on the war yards, destroying everything within before they collided. Ar/Click/380nm prepared for the best and the worst: knowing that any survivors of its species would attempt to stop it, after finishing the composition, it sat in a mobile gun mount on the face of the array manipulator and took one last breath while viewing a new sunrise in an otherwise black sky. As with everything else, it remains in place, waiting for someone else to start the music.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 36″ x 36 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ (91.44 cm x 92.71 cm x 46.99 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes attenboroughii

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: Consignment

Shirt Price: Consignment

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State of the Gallery: October 2019

And so we come to the end of the 2019 carnivorous plant growing season. (Cue the national anthem.) The cold front that whipped through the Dallas area early Halloween morning saw to that: right now, the Venus flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are already preparing for winter dormancy, and a few days of warmer temperatures in November won’t stop their normal progression thanks to shorter days and longer, cooler nights. Even in the gallery, it’s time to switch to winter hours: all of the timers need to be reset anyway due to the end of Daylight Savings Time, so they’re all being set for about ten hours of light per day so they get a good rest, too. (In March, when the indoor and outdoor photoperiods go back to longer days, we’ll all be glad of it, as the blooming response should be phenomenal, especially with the sundews and bladderworts.) The flytraps and Sarracenia are the big ones to worry about, though: if they don’t get a proper dormancy, they’ll eventually wear out and die, and our freezing temperatures at Halloween just bumped their naptime ahead by about three weeks.

Now, you’d think that with the arrival of dormancy season, everything would shut down over at the gallery. Anything but. The only time this place will be more busy than in November and December will be in January and February. The show schedule definitely doesn’t let up in November: there’s the Deep Ellum Creative Market in Dallas the weekend of November 9 and the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in Austin on November 23 and 24. The real fun, as it has for the last four years, starts the first Saturday after American Thanksgiving, with the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas gallery open houses starting on November 30 and continuing through December 7, 14, and 21. (November 30 and December 1 are doubly auspicious, as these mark the fortieth anniversary of my first moving to Texas and meeting my best friend Paul Mears for the first time, respectively. For four decades, he’s referred to December as “a day that will live forever in infamy” on a personal level, and, well, he’s not wrong about that assessment.) After that, it’s a matter of spending January and February constructing new enclosures, working out the logistics on new shows, and generally getting everything ready for when the flytraps and Sarracenia wake up again.

And speaking of new shows, news that’s had to be held in confidence since the end of August: the Triffid Ranch has three new shows in 2020 through the Oddities & Curiosities Expo folks. Besides the Dallas show on March 28 and the Austin show on June 20, it’s time to hop state borders and bring the Triffid Ranch to New Orleans on August 29. The New Orleans show is going to be the biggest test of event logistics yet: if this works out and I kill neither myself nor plants, then it’s time to try spreading the wealth to new cities outside of Texas. If it doesn’t, at least I’ll have the opportunity to visit with old and dear friends, including many whom I haven’t seen in person since the late, lamented Exoticons imploded at the end of 2000. Win/win. (The date on the Austin show is particularly auspicious, even if it means heading right back out after returning from the Houston Horror Film Festival the weekend before. 2019’s show was impressive but not as packed as 2018, a factor commonly attributed both to the soul-withering heat of Central Texas in mid-August and to classes at the University of Texas starting up the next week. June is much better: as with Dallas, it might even mean that we get a bit of rain that weekend before the summer blast furnace starts in earnest in July.)

Other than that, it’s back to commissions and new enclosures to replace those sold over the summer: keep checking back for new enclosure details. Among many other things, 2019 is the year that I finally enter enclosure photos for the Spectrum Awards. (I know I have no chance in hell of winning an award, but getting stomped and pantsed by the best artists in the field of fantastic art is also an inducement to keep working toward winning.) In addition, keep an eye open for some extra backstory on new and old enclosures: no more details until it’s done, but those familiar with the works of Harlan Ellison may recognize the concept.

As always, the gallery endures: for those coming in late, it’s open by appointment or at regular open houses. If you have particular demands for custom enclosures intended as holiday gifts, get your appointment in NOW. By the time the Nightmare Weekends start, getting additional commissions may be problematic before the middle of January.

Enclosure: “Alpha Omega” (2019)

Contrary to popular perception, most doomsday devices don’t start out as such. A nuclear battery stored long enough invariably starts to leak radiation, which may or may not be detectable from outside its storage container. In cases like these, the best thing to do is leave them closed and forgotten, which would work if the lock wasn’t so easy to disengage.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “Bill Bailey” hybrid

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

Enclosures: “The Langerhaans Archipelago” (2019)

Administration Report: Kiernan 40592d (“Convoy”), security rating “Standard”

The first exploration of the human-habitable exoplanet Kiernan 40592d, informally referred to as “Convoy,” revealed many mysteries upon close orbital observation, including the fact that Convoy has almost no axial tilt. An axial tilt of .0000335 means that the planet has no discernable seasons; two large rocky moons and one metal-rich moon (possibly the remnants of a planetary core from the early days of the Kiernan 40592 system) contribute to a wider range of tidal effects than seen on Earth, but the wide expanses of land between water masses should have precluded the development of Convoy’s surprisingly Earthlike biota. The reason behind that variety lies with one of the first features spotted during the original survey: a cluster of artificial discs or “islands” moving slowly across the planet at the rate of approximately 500 meters per solar day. When first spotted, a member of the survey team noted that the cluster resembled a human pancreas, hence its informal name “The Langerhaans Archipelago.”

Over 4000 islands comprise the cloud, levitating above the planet’s surface and moving through an unknown technology. The islands range wildly in size, shape, diameter, altitude, and inclination, but all share a rock and soil top crust with a metallic rim and base, with a maximum diameter of 500 meters, The vast majority of the islands remain within the cloud, but some have been tracked breaking from the cloud and moving vast distances for unknown reasons before returning to the cluster, and others stopping on the surface and becoming covered with sediment or volcanic deposits. For the most part, however, individual islands stay at a consistent altitude and position within the cloud. The cloud itself moves in a circumpolar “orbit,” moving from arctic to equatorial latitudes and transporting life forms with them. (In extreme circumstances, the cloud moves around drastic changes on the surface, such as around the extensive shield volcano complex in the northern hemisphere when eruptions are ongoing.) In fact, at least one-third of the documented life on Convoy is only known from the Archipelago, with half of that endemic to one to three islands. Others disembark or die back as temperatures rise or fall, remaining at a particular latitude until the Archipelago returns.

The movement of the Archipelago is so consistent that an analogue to terrestrial flowering plants has evolved within the cluster, with “males” living on the surface and passing genetic material to “females” on the islands, who then scatter new plantlets on islands and the planet surface below. As temperatures and sunlight intensity change, many parent plants die back to corms until their optimal conditions return, thus causing drastically different appearances to islands depending upon the latitude at which they are located. Others remain with the Archipelago for their entire lives, with the change in latitude instigating stages in their life cycles such as metamorphosis and reproduction,

This arrangement has been in place for a very long time: radioisotope dating of the crust is problematic because of unknown factors involving erosion and redeposition and dating of the discs is nearly impossible, but most models suggest that the Archipelago is between 500 million to one billion standard years old. Since the Kiernan 40592 system is approximately two billion years younger than Earth’s, this suggests that the Archipelago was put into motion shortly after the planet’s crust cooled after its original formation.

Although no other trace of the cloud builders remains on Convoy or anywhere else within the planetary system, artifacts and debris from at least three advanced civilizations, two of which previously unknown, have been found both on individual islands and on one of Convoy’s moons. Likewise unknown is whether the Archipelago’s life forms evolved independently on Convoy or if they were transported by the cloud builders. Either way, extensive Administration research continues on understanding nutrient acquisition and transfer between Convoy’s surface and the islands, interactions between animals and plants across the cloud, effects of the cloud’s passing on biology and geology on the surface below. Permanent bases on Convoy’s surface are banned, and most exploration is done with a combination of drones and very carefully monitored human and robot activity.

Isolated islands have been found in a seemingly nonfunctional state, although longterm observation confirms that some of these “nonfunctional” platforms are in a sort of standby mode, possibly to establish particular plants, animals, and/or protists before rejoining the rest of the Archipelago. Several attempts have been made by Administration scientists to study the internal structure of the islands, but these have been hampered by a combination of the extremely tough composite structure of the outer shell and the equally advanced nanostructures within. Even cutting beams at the absolute lower limit produce a kerf wide enough to inhibit or disable island function, with one researcher (Stuyvesant,08311193-664-5) describing available technology as comparable to “shotgunning a Stradivarius to learn how to play it.”

Because of the discovery of islands going dormant but remaining functional, and the islands’ function in preserving and revitalizing the planet’s ecology, any attempt at damaging or disabling an island, or approval of any attempt, can and will be punished by a minimum of a loss of ten years’ income, incarceration in Administration facilities for a minimum of seven standard years, and a total permanent reversion of all privileges and clearances associated with advanced degrees or military rank. This has not stopped “accidents,” but it has slowed them to a crawl. Further research into the islands is overseen by Administration authorities, with full biohazard protocols applying at all times due to the similarities of Convoy’s ecosystem to that of Earth. Unauthorized visits to Convoy’s surface will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of Administration law.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes rafflesiana

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, acrylic rod.

Price: $350

Shirt Price: $300

Enclosures: “Eternity Vault” (2019)

Description: A specialized commission for a customer wishing to add his own selection of plants, this enclosure was inspired by any number of utility company and military projects. These installations surrounded equipment that didn’t and couldn’t justify constant upkeep but that still functioned perfectly well, even as paint flaked and seedlings turned into trees.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 24″ x 18″ x 18″ (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: None

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, polyester resin, found items.

Price: Commission: not for sale.

Shirt Price: Commission: not for sale.

Enclosures: “Shackelford Gate” (2019)

Description: A specialized commission for a customer wishing to add his own selection of plants, this enclosure was inspired by any number of utility company and military projects. These installations surrounded equipment that didn’t and couldn’t justify constant upkeep but that still functioned perfectly well, even as paint flaked and seedlings turned into trees.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 24″ x 18″ x 18″ (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: None

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, polyester resin, found items.

Price: Commission: not for sale.

Shirt Price: Commission: not for sale.

Enclosures: “Temporal Vortex Stabilizer” (2019)

Description: This enclosure was inspired by any number of utility company and military projects. These installations surrounded equipment that didn’t and couldn’t justify constant upkeep but that still functioned perfectly well, even as paint flaked and seedlings turned into trees.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 20″ x 24″ x 20″ (50.80 cm x 60.96 cm x 50.80 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes hybrid “Bill Bailey”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, polyester resin, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Enclosures: “Eocene Survivors” (2015)

Description: An intriguing thought experiment on being able to recognize very ancient traces of extraterrestrial life and civilizations involves what is known as the “Silurian hypothesis,” which involves how to identify traces of industrial civilizations millions of years in Earth’s past. If, and this is definitely an “if,” terrestrial life had developed sentience millions of years before humanity, traces of these sentients’ technology and industry may not be recognizable as such, depending upon both geological metamorphosis and distortion and decomposition of metals and other artificial components. Another aspect is that, thanks to constant erosion of Earth’s surface and plate tectonics raising new mountains and plateaus, what were prime locations for cities during the Cretaceous period (145 million years BCE to 65 million years BCE) could have eroded to dust or been subducted into Earth’s mantle, destroying them forever. However, and this is another “if,” if an advanced civilization had existed on Earth in the distant past, its artifacts and relics  may still be preserved in a recognizable form, but were preserved in sedimentary strata currently covered with lava flows, buried under glaciers, or are otherwise inaccessible at this time.

Dimensions (height/diameter): 25 1/2″ x 14 1/2″ (64.77 cm x 36.83 cm) diameter

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis

Construction: Acrylic. Resin, stone, glass, horn

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Photo by Allison David

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 2

Half of the fun in coming out to Texas Frightmare Weekend every year is being able to debut new projects at every one. This year’s Frightmare debut was the Nepenthes hamata enclosure “Z’Ha’Dum” (2019) , and bringing out this one had multiple layers of significance. The first is the most obvious: a sympathetic and very dark audience that stares inside and chuckles “Where the hell did you come up with that?” instead of backing away slowly. The second was that I’ve described the famous upper traps of N. hamata as “resembling a condom designed by Clive Barker,” and everyone at Frightmare gets it even without my having to show pictures. The third and most important reason, though? The third and most important, though, is that longtime attendees have heard me talk about constructing a new enclosure specifically to house a hamata for years, and they weren’t shocked when they came by the booth and discovered that I’d followed through. They were surprised at the backdrop, but mostly they were just thrilled to see one of the great legendary carnivorous plants of the world in close up and in person.

To be continued…

Enclosures: Z’Ha’Dum (2019)

Description: One of the El Dorados of the carnivorous plant world is the highland Asian pitcher plant Nepenthes hamata. Native to Sulawesi, N. hamata is notoriously difficult to keep in captivity, as it requires both cool daytime temperatures and a significant drop in nighttime temperature. The plant keeps attracting devotees, though, because of its distinctive traps: besides its uniquely hairy lid, the main draw involves the peristomes of its lower and upper traps. The sharp serrations on the lips of the lower pitchers are immediately noticeable, but the real draws are the upper pitchers, which bear hooks.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes hamata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Enclosures: O’Keefe (2019)

Description: The request was for a custom carnivorous plant enclosure that invoked the style of Georgia O’Keefe without plagiarizing it, and the challenge was to synthesize both O’Keefe’s skyscraper period and her New Mexico period in the context of a durable carnivore enclosure.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes x. ventrata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Commission: not for sale.

Shirt Price: Commission: not for sale.

Enclosures: “Paredolia” (2019)

Description: As highly visual animals, humans are predisposed to see patterns, particularly those that might comprise faces. Even with objects and items that have no living component, the urge is to look for a pattern, even when that pattern does not exist.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Enclosures: “Mashup” (2019)

Description: An experiment in materials and techniques, partly as a reminder that the films Star Wars: Episode One and Alien were released almost exactly 20 years apart. This enclosure will debut at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant:Nepenthes ampullaria x ventricosa “Bloody Mary”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

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.

Enclosures: Hoodoo (2018)

One of the best available arguments against the existence of advanced indigenous or extraterrestrial civilizations on Earth in the distant past is a lack incontrovertibly artificial artifacts or technological byproducts in geological deposits predating modern humans. Even with radioisotope decay, the byproducts of that decay would still be recognizable as such, as with the Oklo natural nuclear reactor. Even in a degraded or decomposed state, if an advanced civilization sent representatives from other stars, or developed on its own from native life forms millions of years ago, detritus from exploration, settling, or accidents might still be found eroding out of badlands, moraines, and other areas of rapid geologic upheaval.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24 1/2″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “Poi Dog” (unknown hybrid)

Construction: Polystyrene, polystyrene foam, epoxy putty, strontium europium glow powder, stone.

Price: $200US

Shirt Price: $150US

Enclosures: Hans-Ruedi II (2018)

One of the challenges of working with Nepenthes pitcher plant species that like to vine, particularly ones with heavy vines such as N. bicalcarata, is supplying a suitably strong and visually arresting backdrop to allow proper growth. Armed with a fascination for the New York series of murals by the Swiss surrealist Hans-Ruedi Giger (1940-2014), the final backdrop combines strength, anchor points for bicalcarata vines, and an object lesson in how Giger’s famous biomechanics works implied function and stress loading as much S aesthetics.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes bicalcarata

Construction: polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride hose, polystyrene foam, epoxy putty, silicone.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Enclosures: Skarif Salvage (2018)

This commission had three absolutes: it had to fit into a very small space, the plant in the enclosure had to be a Nepenthes “Bloody Mary” hybrid, and it had to be a surprise. Considering that the recipient was an enthusiastic Star Wars fan, months of research into weathering and oxidation on World War II ordnance and installations paid off. If nothing else, the project also gave a whole new appreciation for the modelmakers in special effects workshops, because they’re obviously underpaid.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “Bloody Mary” hybrid

Construction: Polystyrene model kit, polystyrene foam, epoxy putty

Price: Custom commission

Shirt Price: Custom commission