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

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  4,214 ratings  ·  638 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
Kindle Edition
Published (first published May 2009)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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
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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
Kater Cheek
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
Lisa
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
Amy
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
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Jenny Esplin
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?
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Beth
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
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Almeta
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
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Sue Smith
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
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Sesana
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
Jill
Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities takes readers on a tour of the serial killers of the botanical kingdom.

Her preface sets the tone, and gives a sense of the interesting and exciting information contained in the book:

"Some of the plants in this book have quite a scandalous history. A weed killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother. A shrub nearly blinded Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most famous landscape architect. A flowering bulb sickened
...more
Lauren
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
Very fun and interesting - and now I don't touch anything when I go outside. Ever.
Stephanie
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
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
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Claire Greene
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 Wolfe-Thomas
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
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Elizabeth Scott
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
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Nancy Brady
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
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Lori Schiele
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
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Jackie
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.
NancyL Luckey
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!
Velvetink
Loved the drawings although one should not soley rely on them for plant identification.

has arrived! 17/11.14
Alyce (At Home With Books)
Wicked Plants is a fascinating collection of facts and anecdotes about plants that are dangerous. The plants are listed alphabetically with the description of the plant features and their dangerous effects. Most listings are accompanied by an interesting story about how the plant has been harmful, and some contain a social history of the plants legality.

The biggest surprise for me while reading this book was how many common plants, even those we eat, have harmful effects. I learned that cashews,
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Clockstein Lockstein
Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart is a fascinating if slightly creepy look at poisonous and harmful plants, some that may be in your yard, house, or even in your refrigerator ! First of all, I have to say I love the feel of this book. Too many publishers have forgotten that part of the joy of reading is holding the volume in your hands. Plants is a small hardcover without dust jacket with engraving on the front cover giving it the feel of a late 19th century volume; it even has a ribbon bookmark! It ...more
Girl Underground
This was a really fun read—every entry read like a short story, and every short story was fascinating. It reminded me of why I took and love botany in college (for the fun of it!); plants are endlessly fascinating. Author Amy Stewart is careful about including the disclaimer that she’s not a botanist, but a hobbyist, and the book shouldn’t be used as a comprehensive source to figure out what plants are safe and what aren’t. Indeed, some educated critics have pointed out a few errors in her facts ...more
Bookish
This time of year is when I usually plan my garden for the coming spring and summer. Rather than turn to Western Sunset, I thought I'd thumb through Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart for inspiration, er, for what not to plant.

If you ever want to take a peaceful walk in a garden or hike on a nature trail again, perhaps this isn't the book for you 'cause it freaked me out. Just a little.

With section titles like "Lawn of Death" and
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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 Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter
  • Wicked History Of The World
  • The Illustrated Insectopedia
  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History
  • Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures
  • The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature
  • Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee
  • 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 Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
  • The Weather of the Future
  • Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
  • The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus
  • The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists
  • Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History
  • Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees
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Amy Stewart lives in northern California, where she and her husband own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books. She writes books by typing very quickly and loudly on a jet black keyboard that has no letters printed on the keys, proving (to herself, because no one else particularly cares) that she is an excellent touch typist.

When she's not writing books, reading them, or shelving them, she m
...more
More about Amy Stewart...
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden

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“A poisonous seed will only kill you if you chew it and swallow.” 2 likes
“Mango and cashew trees also produce the irritating resin known as urishol, as does the lacquer tree. In fact, people who are highly sensitive to poison ivy or one of its cousins may experience a cross-sensitivity to mango rind or a lacquer-covered box.” 1 likes
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