For me, carnivorous plants fall into the same category as dinosaurs, muppets and the concept of Doctor Who – if you don’t find them wondrous, I’m not sure I can trust you. I hadn’t thought about carnivorous plants recently, what with my brain full of the , but the redoubtable Paul Riddell, ex-writer and essayist and creator of the fondly missed Esoteric Science Resource Centre, has finally opened a web site for his business devoted to these little beasties: the Texas Triffid Ranch, a nursery for “carnivorous, prehistoric, and otherwise exotic plants”.
Besides which, Daffodil Day – a fund-raiser for the excellent Cancer Council (which as a kid I always called the “Anti-Cancer Council“, which is either an organisation who like to make it clear they’re not in favour of cancer, or a rival group who oppose the altruistic deeds of the real one) is coming soon. Every year on Daffodil Day the city fills with tiny, Triffid-like flowers, their bell-shaped mouths leering at me from every corner, watching, waiting… I can’t help but imagine that the plants will soon eat us all.
I myself have dabbled in the care and feeding of two Venus Fly-traps, the “classic” or “boring” variety of carnivorous plant. The first was a gift from a school friend when I moved to Perth; my friend had also bought himself a Fly-trap, naming his Clyde, and mine Bonnie. Bonnie and I formed a strong bond, forged in the stress of the immensely long car trip from far northern New South Wales, all the way down the east cost and then across the endless roads of the Nullarbor Plain, but she was taken from me by customs officers as we crossed the border from South Australia into Western Australia.
About a year ago, remembering my childhood friend and frustrated by a veritable plague of flies here in Melbourne, I bought a new Fly-trap from the wonderful nursery at CERES. Wary of getting too attached, I named it Fang – the rather unimaginative name emblazoned on the tag it came with – and set him on the windowsill in kitchen/dining area. Fang faithfully served me for many months, eating a large number of flies, and I followed the wisdom of pruning Fang’s growths. We were happy…until my unscheduled period of homelessness, when I accidentally left Fang at an ex-girlfriend’s house.
It’s not just the carnivorous plants that are weird. When I was a kid, we had a banana tree in our backyard, and those things are strange. A friend who has now moved to New York is fascinated by them, and with good reason – they can walk. Well, they can move uphill, but that’s only a short hop, skip and a poisonous lash from being a mobile killer Triffid, and let me tell you, a banana tree is much bigger than a Daffodil and a whole lot harder to destroy with an axe than any zombie. You can prepare for the invasion of the animate dead if you want; me, I’m going to stock up on the herbicide and use my chainsaws the way their engineers intended.
And, of course, I’ll be watching the Texas Triffid Ranch for advice, because while I don’t live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I know Paul and the TTR team – consisting of his partner, their cats, a visiting opossum and my personal favourite, Stella, “The World’s Meanest Box Turtle” – will give me plenty of straight dope on all weird plants great and small. The Texas Triffid Ranch blog is always good reading, too.