Texas Triffid Ranch
Even for long-time residents, Richardson has her secrets and hidden jewels. Much like exploring the old garden shed in your grandparent’s backyard, or finding a dusty trunk in the attic, one never knows what surprises and stories await. One such hidden treasure is The Texas Triffid Ranch.
Plants have inspired many strange stories over the years, including the 1950’s British sci-fi horror novel The Day of the Triffids, where giant poisonous man-eating plants from outer space terrorized the Earth. The theme of invading plant species can also be found in classic films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and Little Shop of Horrors. These fictional tales of out of control environments are meant to keep us on the edge of our seats, although real-life meat-eating plants are nothing to be feared. In fact, carnivorous plants are a helpful partner in our ecosystem.
The Texas Triffid Ranch is a one-of-a-kind plant gallery specializing in carnivorous plants. Located in Richardson, TX. Although we usually associate these plants with the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), there are well over 600 species that attract, trap, and devour their unlucky prey. This includes pests like fruit flies, house flies, and mosquitoes. The gallery features several varieties of plants, as well as unique enclosures.
To learn more about these unusual specimens I had a conversation with Paul Riddell, the owner of Texas Triffid Ranch while attending his fascinating carnivorous plant workshop, and even brought home my very own hand-potted Spoonleaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia) in a glass apothecary jar.
“Congratulations on your 10-year anniversary as of May 2018. Since The Texas Triffid Ranch had its beginning at comic and sci-fi conventions, what do you think it is about these plants that capture people's imaginations and nightmares?”
“What gets everyone about carnivorous plants is the same factor that made 18th-century botanist Carolus Linnaeus refuse to accept that they actually existed: they appear to subvert the natural order. The reality is that they all are plants with special adaptations to live in nitrogen-poor environments, which many plants have. The difference is that clover, alfalfa, and mesquite get their nitrogen from bacteria in their roots that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form they can use. They don’t have elaborate lures and traps to get their nitrogen to come to them.”
What planted the seed of inspiration for you to pursue your interest and ultimately a career in carnivorous plants?
“A little over 15 years ago, I had quit my career as a pro writer and was at loose ends when I received a job offer in Tallahassee, Florida. My second day there, I visited the Tallahassee Museum, which had a display of indigenous carnivores. After that, being able to view them up close, it was all over.”
Are there any stereotypes about these plants that you would like to squelch?
“There’s no such thing as an Audrey II. Venus flytraps don’t and can’t draw blood if a trap closes on your finger. No carnivore can consume a kid/ex/in-law.”
What do you wish everyone knew about carnivorous plants?
“The biggest fact is that while carnivores attract, capture, and digest insect prey, they’re not suited for insect control. Planting a North American pitcher plant next to a pond won’t magically wipe out all the mosquitoes in the time zone, and flytraps won’t capture fleas or bedbugs. You may get satisfaction from watching a carnivorous plant capture prey, but they’re not a magic shortcut to dealing with a bug problem and trying to use one that way is a good way to kill the plant.”
Do these specimens respond to music? If so what is their favorite band or musical genre?
“I haven’t noticed any particular specialty, but the ones in the gallery get a lot of exposure to the works of Christopher Franke and Jerry Goldsmith while I’m working on new plant enclosures, and my default soundtrack when buying new plants is Ministry’s “Just One Fix.”
What special events or workshops do you have coming up this summer, and how can people get in touch with you?
“Besides several events over the summer and a trip to Austin in November, we try to have a gallery show every month that doesn’t already contain an outside event, and our next gallery shows are on July 7 and August 19. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.txtriffidranch.com”
As we can see Seymour doesn’t feed Audrey II anything besides insects in real life, carnivorous plants are here to stay, and they’re a useful and interesting addition to our planet. Special thanks to Paul Riddell, and to Curious Garden in Dallas for hosting the plant workshop I attended.
Visit The Texas Triffid Ranch at 405 Business Parkway Richardson, TX 75081
written by Reid Robinson
Reid and his wife Julie accidentally discovered Richardson while dining in China Town, landing in Richardson Heights around 2006. They felt right at home with the city’s curious brew of global culture, mid-century architecture, civic-mindedness, and academic influence of UTD. Reid’s a father, media arts producer, NTX arts + urban advocate, and longtime host of community radio’s Sonic Assembly on KUZU 92.9FM.