The Evil That Plants Do

Book Review

Move over Poison Ivy! There are far worse things lurking in that great world wide garden out there. It’s a good thing Amy Stewart is around to warn you about them.

Wicked Plants – The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities” is a wicked good read.  This book was published in 2009 and I got a copy right away. Who could resist such a title? Her writing style is very entertaining – just like the title. You will learn everything you ever feared about the green jungle and then some. It also contains etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs and drawings by Johnathon Rosen. The artwork is outstanding. I love the cover wrapped in thorny vines. The chapters are tagged with telling headers: Dangerous, Painful, Deadly, Offensive, Illegal, Destructive, etc.

I have a friend who is an avid gardener. She once cultivated an impressive poison garden which I got quite a kick out of. With this aid of this book, you too will be able to create one of your very own.

Here are some tidbits, along with the exposure of the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother, found in this book:

Another reason to hate Bishop’s Weed – it is phototoxic, meaning that skin contact combined with sun exposure can cause a rash. In fact, it is so much so that exposure to the seeds can permanently darken the skin.

The homicidal Dodder, with its long leafless stems, come in otherworldly colors like orange, red and yellow. It wraps itself around a host plant, injects it with tiny fungal structures and literally sucks the life out of it – like a vampire. The author observed that “a field smothered in Dodder looks like it has been attacked by silly string”.  I’ve had a brush with this creepy plant myself as it was growing and killing in the swamp at the back of my yard. See my hair raising story.

Hellebore, a.k.a. Lenten Rose was used, it is believed, in one of the first instances of chemical warfare in recorded history. The First Sacred War (595-585 BC) was won because the Greek military alliance poisoned the water supply of the city of Kirrha with this plant. Cripes –  I just planted some this past spring! Guess I won’t be putting sprigs of it in my lemonade.

Get this book. It is great fun to read. You’ll be able to go back outside, someday… You can get a copy at Amazon and other fine book stores.


 Reviewed by Max


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