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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 (206 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $18.95 What's this?
Print List Price: $18.95
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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: 2242 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565126831
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (May 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003I83EI6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,586 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
224 of 237 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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168 of 179 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Length: 4:17 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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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cold nature of mother nature June 24, 2009
This is a thorough book, but don't take that the wrong way! It's full of charm and a sense of history, but it's really a book for the imagination. You will marvel at so many perilous things nature and pre-FDA entrepreneurs have in store for the unfortunate victims in this book. I don't want to ruin the surprises, but there's a lot of misfortune in this book!

Plenty of illustrations and stories, this makes a great lounge book for hosts who want a guest to have something to do for a few idle minutes.

The writing is intelligent and the topic is novel. I really appreciate that this is a carefully crafted and well thought out project, and you should come away wanting to meet the creative author.

But if anyone in your house wants to poison you, you better not leave this out!
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20 of 20 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
2.0 out of 5 stars Not always factually correct! Alarmist at times....
I really wanted to like this book, after all it's my favorite category of books plants effecting/changing history, and how they have been used culturally through out time. Read more
Published 3 days ago by tonya lemos
5.0 out of 5 stars and my step dad loved it too
I bought Wicked Plants as a gift for the step dad. MY husband was so fascinated he wanted to keep it. We gifted it, and my step dad loved it too. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Library Lady Katie
5.0 out of 5 stars Get this one AND her other one!
Great author and great subject. I've enjoyed this one AND the one about "critters". You'll like it, too, unless you really ARE afraid of the "stuff" in your... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Nickolas Trubov
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Sparse on details about the most common 'wicked plants'.
Published 18 days ago by ashaby
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 21 days ago by Raymond J Heck
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Informative
Color photographs would earn this 5 stars. Fun and informative read. The only problem is I can't go into Nature without getting paranoid about long pants and shirt now. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Dee Lindo (or her hubby)
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Stewart's winners.
This is an interesting book, but then all of Stewart's books are great.
Published 24 days ago by tom
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 29 days ago by raya
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty much what I expected
Pretty much what I expected, an interesting primer on common plants and weeds found around home.
Would recommend to anyone curious about poisonous plants.
Published 1 month ago by Brian O'Mara
5.0 out of 5 stars a downright scary collection of plants
If the outdoors and what nasty plants can so to you scares you, this book is not for you. A fascinating read that explains a few of my own encounters.
Published 1 month ago by Quinton Snowdy
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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 an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard. She has spent the last few years on arduous research trips through the world's distilleries, wineries, and bars for her latest book, The Drunken Botanist.

She 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.


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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