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Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities [Kindle Edition]

Amy Stewart , Briony Morrow-Cribbs
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. In Wicked Plants, Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations. It’s an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln's mother).

Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

They may look sweet and innocent, but anyone who has ever broken out in a rash after picking a hyacinth blossom or burst into violent sneezing after sniffing a chrysanthemum knows that often the most beautiful flowers can pack the nastiest punch. This comes as no secret to mystery writers, who have long taken advantage of the nefarious properties of common garden plants to create the devices by which a deadly dose of poison is administered to an unsuspecting victim. But, as Stewart so entertainingly points out, such fiction is based on pure fact. There are plants that can kill with a drop of nectar, paralyze with the brush of a petal. From bucolic woodland streams choked by invasive purple loosestrife to languid southern fields overrun by kudzu, some plants are just more trouble than they’re worth. Culling legend and citing science, Stewart’s fact-filled, A–Z compendium of nature’s worst offenders offers practical and tantalizing composite views of toxic, irritating, prickly, and all-around ill-mannered plants. --Carol Haggas


"Culling legend and citing science, Stewart's fact-filled, AZ compendium of nature's worst offenders offers practical and tantalizing composite views of toxic, irritating, prickly, and all-around ill-mannered plants." ---Booklist

Product Details

  • File Size: 1766 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (May 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003I83EI6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,823 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
256 of 269 people found the following review helpful
"Wicked Plants" is a pocket-sized 235-page book that is very entertaining, enlightening (for example, red kidney beans are poisonous if not cooked thoroughly), and easy to read. The author covers some of the common plants, fungus and other related genre of the natural world that are deadly, dangerous, or just irritating to humans and animals. She also talks about some of the myths and truths associated with some of these plants.

I consider "Wicked Plants" an excellent reference except for two drawbacks. First, it doesn't have an index. If, for example, you remember that XXX was dangerous you'd have to flip through the entire book to find it. Second, there are no color photos for the plants discussed, only pencil sketches are shown.

In summary, this book is not a complete reference nor is it a typical book either. However, "Wicked Plants" balances entertainment, fact, and myths about plants and related "items" of the natural world in one neat little package.

I gave this book three stars because of the absence of an index and no color pictures. However, I still consider this a worthwhile purchase. If it had these items, I would have given it 4-1/2 to 5 stars. If you have a Kindle, then the Kindle edition would resolve the lack of an index because of its search capability.

Since I intend to use this book as one of several valuable references in my library, I am sharing below the alphabetical list of the plants or fungus outlined in the 2009 version of the hardcover book that I created for myself. Please note that this list is not all inclusive as it excludes the scientific names and the "meet the relatives" plants that were mentioned throughout the text. This list is also messy due to the lack of tabbing ability in this review.
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174 of 185 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Length: 4:18 Mins
I'm a huge fan of Amy Stewart, and I've read everything she's written, including her bimonthly gardening column in our local newspaper and her writing at Garden Rant, so I was thrilled when I heard about her latest book, Wicked Plants.

I'm a pro gardener and a total plant geek, so reading all about the wicked deeds of the plants I know and love (and learning some new ones as well!) was a blast. But you don't have to know or even care much about plants to enjoy this book.

Amy blends the human stories and the plant details with such humor and depth that even the black-thumbed among us will enjoy reading. As she says, "I looked for plants that had an interesting backstory. There had to be a victim - a body count."

She goes on, "These are plants you do not want to meet in a dark alley." Indeed not. When I read about Mussolini's guys chasing Communists down the streets with bottles of castor oil, a laxative made from the beautiful but deadly Castor Bean, I just howled with laughter. Earlier, I'd read with bated breath how the KGB injected a tiny pellet of ricin, from the same plant, into Communist defectors to murder them. I think I'd prefer being chased by the Fascists!

The book itself is gorgeously done, with hand-drawn copper etchings of the plants, brown detailing on the pages which makes it look deliciously ancient, and one of those cool ribbon bookmarks. It would make a great gift book, and indeed, I've already bought three copies to give to friends - it's just that nice of a book.

I'm lucky enough to live locally to Amy Stewart, and she invited me to do a video review of the book in her Wicked Plants-inspired poison garden. In the video, Amy introduces us to a few of the botanical miscreants she writes about. Check it out!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Danger in the grass July 18, 2009
If you believe your home is your castle, fortified against a world of dangers, you might want to reconsider. Amy Stewart's new book, "Wicked Plants: A Book of Botanical Atrocities," gives us a delightful tour of the perils thriving right under our nose.

"Wicked Plants" is a nicely illustrated, upbeat examination of vegetation that can kill, addict, torment and torture. There's nothing benign about that philodendron wending its steady, picturesque way around your mantle. As for that undercooked kidney bean, eat five like it and you'll think you ate a peck of rotten clams. Nature knows no shame. Heart failure, paralysis, vomiting, psychosis, skin ulcers and other horrors, including death, can be induced from plants in your own backyard. Every mystery writer in search of the perfect murder should buy a copy of "Wicked Plants."

Amy Stewart's storytelling talents, combined with her subject matter, make her the Stephen King of gardening lore. About hemlock, she writes:

"The death that hemlock delivers is, from outward appearances, an easy one. Mr. Gow [his children accidentally made him a sandwich with poison hemlock greens] stumbled about drunkenly, his limbs gradually became paralyzed, and eventually the poison stopped his heart and lungs. The doctor attending the death reported that `the Intellect was perfectly clear until shortly before death.'"

While most gardeners pore over seed catalogs, anti-gardeners gather indisputable arguments for inertia from Stewart's book. In her chapter on offensive plants and social misfits, she points to the stench of the skunk cabbage, the wet dog scent of the stinking benjamin, the repugnant emissions of the rare corpse flower. Ingest a bit of slobber weed and prepare for the onslaught of a couple of pints of saliva.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I've enjoyed this book whole heartedly
A fascinating read with lovely pictures throughout! I've enjoyed this book whole heartedly. It's currently decorating my coffee table, as it's very beautiful, but it hardly sits... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars A Botonists BFF
I love this book, not only are there interesting stories but its very informative as well.
Published 6 days ago by Angeleena
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
It may be the scientist in me, but I found this book fascinating. I would love to see photos of each plant.
Published 7 days ago by Tamara Duckworth
5.0 out of 5 stars My type of reading
Loved it
Published 20 days ago by Oldie
5.0 out of 5 stars My roommate really enjoyed books by this author and told me I would...
I have been wanting this book for such a long time. My roommate really enjoyed books by this author and told me I would most likely enjoy this, so far it's great. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Pattis Gardening & Landscaping
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read.Interesting.
Published 28 days ago by mgrande
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best reads I have completed in a long time
This is one of the best reads I have completed in a long time. It's fun to read the trivia, but full of good practical information to help the every day gardener avoid problematic... Read more
Published 1 month ago by nap
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informational
Loved reading this. I'm going to get a hardcopy just so I can read it again. It gives a high level description of plants that Keeps you engaged but doesn't bore.
Published 1 month ago by nelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Well Written
I love all of Amy Stewart's musings and so does my 7 year old.
Published 1 month ago by Misty Michalek
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and entertaining, and a little informative.
This is a witty and sometimes quite funny book, but the word "atrocity" in the title is not carried out in any way. Read more
Published 1 month ago by lyndonbrecht
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More About the Author

Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers, The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, where she and her husband own a bookstore called Eureka Books. Her new book, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story that will be published in September 2015.

Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and a California Horticultural Society Writer's Award.

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Topic From this Discussion
Wicked fun!
Thanks! You can find out more about the making of the video here:
Jan 8, 2009 by Amy Stewart |  See all 2 posts
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