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Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities (Wicked Plants and Bugs #1)

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3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,829 Ratings  ·  693 Reviews
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 (l ...more
Hardcover, 236 pages
Published May 21st 2009 by Algonquin Books (first published May 2009)
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Bekah Like many poisons, they can be hallucinogens or remedies in very small doses. As such, belladonna can act as an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory when…moreLike many poisons, they can be hallucinogens or remedies in very small doses. As such, belladonna can act as an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory when properly dosed. This seems odd at first, but that just goes to show Claire knew her plants!(less)
Stiff by Mary RoachThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonSalt by Mark KurlanskyEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne TrussThe Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
You Read a Book about What?
11th out of 1,120 books — 517 voters
The Botany of Desire by Michael PollanThe Drunken Botanist by Amy  StewartWicked Plants by Amy  StewartThe Orchid Thief by Susan OrleanThe Tree by Colin Tudge
Nonfiction Books about Plants
3rd out of 153 books — 35 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Derus
Apr 16, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Warning: Prepare for multiple baths
❀Aimee❀ Just one more page...
Interesting read, but I really would have preferred color photos in lieu of the illustrations.

Some interesting things I learned:

The Castor Bean plant with its infamous ingredient ricin is what was used in the famous KGB umbrella poisoning.


The seeds are poisonous and indigenous to Asia and Africa. Victims get fever, trouble speaking, and vomit blood. Castor oil has the ricin removed and is often used for its laxative effect.

Coyotillo shrub berries are quite sinister.

This plant is found in Texa
...more
Jennifer
"We would never pick up a discarded coffee cup from the sidewalk and drink from it. But on a hike, we'll nibble unfamiliar berries as if they had been placed there for our appetites alone. We'll brew a medicinal tea from unrecognizable bark and leaves that a friend passes along, assuming that anything natural must be safe. And when a baby comes home, we rush to add safety caps to electrical outlets but ignore the houseplant in the kitchen and the shrub by the french door. This in spite of the
...more
Lisa
Jul 30, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok
I really couldn't decide if this book was supposed to be farcical or not; it was so melodramatic and sensationalistic. Its claims of DANGER seem to be overrated. Consider elderberries and habanero peppers for example. Elderberries are the favored food of cedar waxwings and I've never seen a pile of these dead birds around a bush. I've eaten them raw many times and never had any problems. As a chemist I just couldn't see how cooking them would remove the cyanide. Curiousity got the better of me a ...more
Kater Cheek
Apr 18, 2012 Kater Cheek rated it liked it
Stewart wrote FLOWER CONFIDENTIAL about the floral industry, so one can posit that like me, she loves plants. Like me, she's also fascinated with poison and murder. The book is lush with exquisitely beautiful (and sometimes exquisitely macabre) illustrations. With short chapters, plentiful illustrations, and a thorough table of contents, this is a fast read.

(I'm not going to go so far as to say that this is the perfect book for the back of the toilet, but WICKED PLANTS does have short entries, e
...more
Amy
Apr 16, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh
Stewart attempts to exhaustively catalogue toxic/medicinal plants and herbs using supposedly charming historical vignettes that illustrate and implicate the various species' morbidity and mortality on hapless folk. Humanity is the butt of the joke, all of us apparently being bumbling idiots or murderous half-wits in confrontation with our native flora. Not the most winning premise, and I was irritated by her tone right off the bat.
Long on attempted wit and short on scientific detail, with most
...more
Beth
Jun 26, 2009 Beth rated it liked it
Amy Stewart, a self-proclaimed gardener and writer (not a botanist or scientist) presents, in alphabetical order, mini-biographies of botanical villains, weaving in pop culture, mythology, history, folklore, medicine, and law with botanical and biological information. The most captivating entries are the topical ones that were interspersed in the encyclopedic style, themed with "houseplants," "ragweeds," and "the devil's bartender," all about more common plants.

While I love the concept, I was r
...more
Jenny Esplin
Aug 27, 2011 Jenny Esplin rated it really liked it
Who knew plants could be so wicked? This book contains the terrors of the plant world. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My favorite plant was the dangerous Jimsom weed. The Jamestown settlers used it against some British soldiers, to get the upper hand on ‘em. Clever colonists. Also interesting was the caster bean, whose poisonous extract was used to kill a communist in the 1970s. And how ‘bout those crazy poisonous ordeal beans, used to determine guilt within the West African criminal justice system?
...more
Almeta
Aug 12, 2012 Almeta rated it liked it
Shelves: revue
Not so much a narrative but an encyclopedia with a story or two. I am not likely to remember every plant and its toxin but its affect (no matter which genus) will likely be; nausea, vomiting, irritated bowel in the extreme, paralysis and respiratory failure. If there are others to note, by that time you won’t care!

I was surprised at how many of these I have actually cultivated in my own garden and home. Some of which I gave a "Jaundiced eye" while reading this book!

If your significant other has
...more
Sue Smith
Jan 08, 2012 Sue Smith rated it really liked it
This is the nicest presentation of a 'fact' book that I've seen for a long time.

First off .... I love the cover. That's just me- I love how it gives a sinister vibe, looks old and has a solemn, menacing appearance with the use of that intertwining thorny vine. Absolutely made me want to pick it up and open it. Also loved the golden ribbon stitched into the binding so you could mark your place - or the plant that you want to use on your next victim.

Next, I love the beautiful illustrations and etc
...more
Sesana
Dec 02, 2011 Sesana rated it really liked it
Wicked Plants is a sort of capsule collection of plants that have some sort of harmful effect. That's a vague summary, because there's a wide variety here, from poisonous to irritating to invasive. Each plant has a very short write up that describes what it is and what makes it so bad. There's also a few short "feature" sections that will have brief paragraphs about half a dozen or so plants that fit a theme (deadly to house pets, for example). The author is writing in a very conversational styl ...more
Lauren
Aug 13, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
A very interesting little reference book - the plants are grouped by how "wicked" they are: dangerous, intoxicating, illegal, etc. I learned several tidbits from it. Did you know that Bayer drug company was the first distributor of heroin from the opium poppy? It was on the market for years before they completely realized the effects of the drug.

The bit about the deadly nightshade berries crossed my mind when I went berry-picking this past weekend...
Amy
Apr 25, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfict, science
Very fun and interesting - and now I don't touch anything when I go outside. Ever.
Stephanie
Oct 12, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this book is just so pretty. And it doesn't end with the cover. The pages inside? Swoon. This book best resembles an old notebook kept by your talented artist/botanist/genius great-aunt. The pages have that faded, brown-edged look of an old book. (I know it's fake, but still.) The book is heavily illustrated; the etchings of each plant are just gorgeous. The illustrations are a little, well, eccentric. They're by an artist that once worke ...more
Ruza
Mar 16, 2011 Ruza rated it it was amazing
This book frightened me, but in a good way. How could a book about lovely shrubs, trees and flowers scare you, you ask? Well, I was astonished how many plants in your garden can potentially be life threatening and cause severe damage to you and animals. Not only that, but how incredibly naive we are when it comes to handling these plants and we actually bring some of these things in our homes. I was amazed and shocked by just how powerfully potent some plants were. There's a tree in Australia th ...more
Bonny
Wicked Plants is an interesting idea for a book, but one of the reasons for my 2 star rating is that I listened to the audiobook rather than reading the actual book. As an audiobook, this becomes just a list of possibly dangerous plants; in fact, I question why it was even released in audio format. Wicked Plants desperately needs pictures, and the actual book does contain etchings of some of the plants.

I think the other big thing missing in this book is a better explanation of "wicked". The aut
...more
Claire Greene
Dec 09, 2009 Claire Greene rated it it was amazing
This book was loaned to me from a friend and I admit at first I was a bit sketch about it. While I have begun to learn and enjoy the art of gardening in the last few years, I am not really into all things plants. However, after I began reading it, I really loved it. As a matter of fact, I am going to buy the book for myself AND buy one for my mother (who IS a gardening lover). The book is well written and doesn't get too bogged down in the tiny boring details. Instead, it more focuses on all the ...more
Bec
Mar 27, 2016 Bec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Wicked Plants is full of information given in small bite sized tidbits about the world most poisonous and dangerous plants. The information given is quite accurate and informative and would be a good read for flower beginner gardeners who might not realize how many of our blooming beauties are danger to consume. I learned a few new things reading this book, like the plants in Australia are just as dangerous as the wildlife!

One of my complaints that will cause me to mark it down a star is I thin
...more
Elizabeth Scott
Oct 01, 2009 Elizabeth Scott rated it really liked it
Let me tell you, I knew there were some deadly plants out there, but wow.

It's probably weird to call this a fun read, but it really is--I mean, where else are you going to find out that Bayer actually introduced heroin (even came up with the name!), which was sold as a cough syrup for about ten years before being taken off the market.

Or how about the fact that Charles Julius Guiteau (who shot President James Garfield), was given a bouquet of flowers by his sister on the morning of his executio
...more
Nancy Brady
Jul 22, 2013 Nancy Brady rated it liked it
From poisonous to dangerous to downright scary, Amy Stewart details the gruesome details of plants who can cause extreme harm to people, animals, other plants, and even waterways like rivers, lakes, and ponds. She presents facts interspersed with anecdotes about the various plants and their methods of protecting themselves while harming others in the process.
Ironically, many of the "poisons" are utilized as medicinal products in both the allopathic (traditional medicine) and homeopathic communit
...more
Lori Schiele
Aug 24, 2012 Lori Schiele rated it really liked it
Accurately covers plants under the section headings of: deadly, dangerous, illegal, painful and destructive. It is an interesting read, but is also a good reference book for authors as well as gardeners and practicing witches (not to USE them, but to AVOID them!) The book discusses the common and scientific name, the location the plant is found, the toxin that causes the damage/death, and misc other tidbits of information that authors like me love to collect.

The biggest drawback is that I wish t
...more
Jackie
Apr 23, 2015 Jackie rated it really liked it
Fun read! Very well researched! I think most people in my phone book got texts while I was reading this: "did you know Kudzu is a legume?" To the sister traveling to Australia, "stay away from the stinging tree!!!!" Traces of stories in her nonfiction speak well to what you should expect more fully fleshed out in her fiction debut, GIRL WAITS WITH GUN.
Bec
Mar 27, 2016 Bec rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening, nonfiction
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities is a wonderful book that goes into some of the world’s most toxic plants. If you ever wanted to create a poison garden or know what plants you should avoid hugging this is your book!

Wicked plants feature plants from all over the world with information about why they are toxic, how this has affected its evolution and human history. We also get interesting anecdotes about events that have made these plants infamou
...more
Kara
Sep 20, 2015 Kara rated it really liked it
I thought this was going to be filled with stories of terrible things that happened to people because of their interactions with flora. And it kind of was. But it's not really a book of short stories (even though I've shelved it that way).

Plants are organized alphabetically: Stewart tells a little story about each, then delves a bit into the science with an illustration, then says what other plants it's related to.

This was enjoyable but short. I could've used a lot more story.
Malia
Aug 20, 2011 Malia rated it did not like it
This book is exactly why I don't like to read science books written by non-scientists. Anyone who writes the sentence "mushrooms aren't truly plants" has no business writing a book about plants. Also, as far as writing style goes, this book is more like going on a wikipedia fugue than reading a book. I like the topic, but the execution is abyssmal.
NancyL Luckey
Aug 10, 2009 NancyL Luckey rated it it was amazing
This is a book anyone with small children and/or pets should read. There are plants you'd never imagine are poisonous that are.
It's written in a very readable way and some of the drawings are hilarious. After finishing the book, I read in the back that one of the clients of the illustrator is Tim Burton. Figures!
Cristhian
Jan 21, 2016 Cristhian rated it really liked it
Es un compendio de plantas que:

A. Te pueden matar
B. (que puedes usar para matar)
C. Que te pueden causar reacciones alérgicas al sol, al aire, a la humanidad.
D. Que te pueden inducir alucinaciones.
E. En serio, hay una (morning glory) que te produce el mismo efecto que consumir LSD.
F. Que causan adicción.
G. Que te llevan al suicidio.
H. Que se expanden dominando todo a su paso.
I. Que se convierten en el dueño de la empresa y te bajan el sueldo.

Básicamente, entre este libro de Amy y el otro que he
...more
Victor Davis
Apr 16, 2016 Victor Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
What a charmer! Any compendium of poisonous plants (or of anything really) must necessarily be boring. This book aims well and hits its mark. It's an alphabetical list, not of all poisonous plants, but common & famous ones, the kind that have a story to tell. The corpse flower, the venus flytrap, the hemlock Socrates drank, the oleander that landed a Californian poisoner on death row, the strychnine favored by a 19th-century serial killer, and of course, the most celebrity plants of all, can ...more
Velvetink
Loved the drawings although one should not soley rely on them for plant identification.

has arrived! 17/11.14
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Nerdy Show Book Club: Wicked Plants 1 5 Jun 17, 2012 02:29AM  
  • Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History
  • Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature
  • The Naming of Names
  • Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures
  • The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature
  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History
  • Wicked History Of The World
  • Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish
  • Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks
  • The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter
  • The Weather of the Future
  • The Illustrated Insectopedia
  • The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss
  • Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles
  • Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox to the Killer Bean of Calabar
  • Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee
  • Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History
  • Seeing Further: Ideas, Endeavours, Discoveries and Disputes — The Story of Science Through 350 Years of the Royal Society
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Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants. She lives in northern California, where she and her husband own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books. She's written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and many other national magazines and newspapers.

You can also find
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More about Amy Stewart...

Other Books in the Series

Wicked Plants and Bugs (2 books)
  • Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects

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“A poisonous seed will only kill you if you chew it and swallow.” 2 likes
“But a male tree produces only small, well-behaved flowers—that is, if your definition of well behaved includes spewing plant sperm into the air for weeks on end.” 1 likes
More quotes…