Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities

Title: Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities
Author: Amy Stewart
ISBN: 9781565126831
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009
Hardcover, 235 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble.

First Line: A tree sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed stops the heart; a shrub causes intolerable pain; a vine intoxicates; a leaf triggers a war. Within the plant kingdom lurk unfathomable evils.

If you're the classic "townie" and know nothing about plants or gardening, read this book. You'll be on the receiving end of an enjoyable education. That is, unless you're a Nervous Nellie. Then you may throw out any houseplants you have and refuse to step outside your door.

If you're someone like me who grew up weeding the garden, helping her grandmother out in her flowerbeds, or tromping around in the woods, read this book. Unless you have a degree in botanical poisons and trivia, you'll still be on the receiving end of an enjoyable education.

I grew up having been taught not to put everything in my mouth. I grew up having been taught that plants weren't always my friends. (Just ask my allergies.) I would also suppose that my penchant for crime fiction might also make me slightly more knowledgeable about the plant kingdom. Regardless of how much I already knew, I learned still more by reading this book.

This well-illustrated little volume has been stuffed with knowledge by author Amy Stewart. She includes "over 200 of Mother Nature's most appalling creations in an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend." The short chapters are perfect for dipping into when only a few minutes are available to read, and they are packed with information. Latin names are included, but Stewart uses layman's terms to keep confusion at an absolute minimum.

Although I was familiar with many of the plants contained in this volume, I learned tons of fascinating history and trivia. I was also pleased to see that Stewart has been to the one and only poison garden that I have visited: the one at Alnwick Garden. In fact, the cover of Wicked Plants strongly reminds me of the gates to the Poison Garden there.

It's easy to learn more about these plants: Stewart has included lists of gardens and additional books for reading in the back.  Novice or expert, you're bound to find something of interest in Wicked Plants.


  1. I always dream of having a great garden myself, but if my experience with keeping plants on the balcony alive is any clue, I have to do some serious gardening classes. But simply because of my dream, I think this book sounds lovely!

  2. I guess I'm a townie - I know next to nothing about plants. It sounds like I need to read this book.

  3. Interesting book, and I´d love to visit a poison garden! Crime stories about poison fascinate me.

  4. I enjoyed that book and learning about how certain plants can kill. I'm glad you liked it. Now we know how to kill someone.

  5. Wow, this book sounds fascinating and....horrifying! Kind of Halloween-ish, but from a plant's point of view? :-)

  6. I'm so glad to see this book is actually as entertaining as it sounds! It really intrigued me when I first heard about it but sometimes these books aren't as fun as they appear. This one however sounds great!

  7. This does sound like something I’d like. I’m in the townie category… didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “poison garden” – fascinating stuff!

  8. I'm in the Townie category too..and find this book interesting. I can't decide if I would freak myself out or not though. haha

  9. I read the book, but it's been a while. I know that I liked it though - it was filled with fascinating plant facts. It's so odd to think that there are poison gardens (and I think those gates look like the cover too).

  10. Iris-- It is a very useful book, and as far as gardening goes, I've done well to find several plants that I like which thrive on benign neglect!

    Kathy-- It does have all sorts of useful information.

    Dorte-- The poison garden at Alnwick was my favorite part of the entire garden.

    Page-- We also know many ways in which neither of us wants to die!

    Erin-- Very well said! :)

    Leah-- It is!

    Alexandra-- Not everyone's as fortunate as I was growing up with a wonderful gardening grannie.

    Kris-- It's not written in a sensationalistic way, so you probably wouldn't be freaked out.

    Alyce-- I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks there's a gate resemblance!


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