Friday, March 29, 2013

Botanical Beasts

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical AtrocitiesWicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An alphabetical compendium of destructive, painful, irritating, offensive, illegal, intoxicating, dangerous, and deadly plants. They sting, poison, explode, and invade - and some of them are in your own home.

A fun read that gives me even more reasons (besides laziness) to never go outside or take up gardening. There are some great anecdotes here about ordeal poisons, suicide trees, trees that create zombie ants to spread their seeds, and of course the villain that took the life of Lincoln's mother - by poisoning the family's milk. Even a few friendlier plants can be toxic in the right circumstances - a few are phototoxic: "using sap that burns the skin when exposed to light" or making you more susceptible to sunburn after you eat them (limes! celery! mokihana, used to make leis!).

Read this all at once or a little bit at a time, if you're timid. My only complaint is the lack of an index, though there is an alphabetical table of contents, a good bibliography, and a list of poison gardens where you can visit to see many of the plants mentioned in the book.

Amy Stewart has also written Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Wicked Bugs, which sounds even more skin-crawly than this book!

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