It's never been easier to find the perfect gift for the charming eccentric in your life. The Texas Triffid Ranch, a locally owned and operated carnivorous plant nursery, has taken root in a larger, permanent new location at the Gallery at Midtown in Valley View Center.
What began as a hobby for retired science fiction novelist Paul Riddell in 2008 has now evolved into an all-out passion project. It takes its name from a classic 1951 science fiction novel, The Day of the Triffids, which involves a takeover of humanity by aggressive, walking, sentient plants. As you might imagine, you cannot purchase triffids from the ranch. Or Audrey IIs.
You can, however, browse a variety of species from popularly known Venus flytraps to sticky, spiny Roridula and a vast selection of nefariously beautiful pitcher plants, all of which consume insects or protozoa for nutrition. The new gallery space is open by appointment and every third Saturday during the Midtown ARTWalk from 6 to 10 p.m.
Transplanting the business to a bigger, easier to access space is an exciting venture for the little nursery with bite. Over the years, Riddell carried his "carnivorous, prehistoric, and otherwise exotic flora" to garden shows, lectures and special events, but it was logistically too difficult to move some of his largest and "most ungainly" varieties. Unlike the ranch's former location in Garland, the new space "allows the opportunity to show carnivorous and protocarnivorous plants rarely seen on display in the United States," a press release says.
In addition to introducing bigger varieties to the public, the new space also allows Riddell to propagate species formerly unable to thrive under local conditions.
"I am able to, among other things, carry South American pitcher plants that are very hard to keep outside in Texas," he says, "Some native to Venezuela and Brazil require very high altitude and can't handle temperatures above 80 to 85 degrees, so I'm now able to better control the environment with air-conditioning."
In Riddell's view, some of the most exciting things you'll see browsing his gallery are many "very big plants," such as a particularly large hybrid pitcher plant with traps as large as baseballs. Find something you can't live without? Need a guard plant for protection?
A plant from Texas Triffid Ranch will set you back about $15-35, and that includes its entire enclosure, including the planter and soil. But, where to start?
"I have quite a few different suggestions for those who are interested but just starting out, and several basic plants that are very beginner friendly," he says.
Just because he's planted in a new spot doesn't mean you won't still see Riddell and his "Odd Plants and Oddities for Odd People" around town. He'll be at All-Con on March 17-20, and will return for the 8th year to Texas Frightmare Weekend on April 30 to May 2.
One place you'll see him -- but only if you already have tickets -- is the Perot Museum's sold-out Social Science event on Jan. 22. The monthly 21-plus late night event falls in conjunction with the museum's Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence exhibition.
"Really it was just about three years ago they discovered that some carnivorous plants fluoresce, and with a UV lamp you finally get a bug's eye view; many plants set off color cues that are a brilliant light blue color," he says.
He'll be on-site with a trusty UV lamp doing what he does best: Educating and enthralling the oddly curious (or is it curiously odd?) among us.
Plan your life: Visit the Texas Triffid Ranch by appointment or Saturday, Jan. 16, during the Midtown ARTWalk, which takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Here's a map, directions and tips to find it.