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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  ·  3,425 ratings  ·  567 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
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
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...more
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...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...more
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
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?...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
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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!
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
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,...more
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
Stephanie D.
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...more
David
As a caveat, don't think you will quickly find the plant that killed Lincoln's mother as you read this book. That tease doesn't get an answer until nearly the end of the book, and that is just fine.

Wicked Plants is a fast read, with interesting anecdotes about the plants from ancient and modern sources and plenty of information for further reading. Stewart does not try to give a complete guide, or detailed information about any of the plants, but such is not her intention. She wrote this book, a...more
Helen
Possibly the most interesting book related to gardening ever.
So many plants and flowers featured here have the most wonderful names, some delightful (the Rosary Pea, Finger Cherry and Angel's Trumpet), others clearly named so as to warn you of their nastiness (such as Ratbane, the 'poison that keeps on killing'), but all are potentially dangerous, and often fatal.
It was very interesting to learn how plants have interacted with social history, one notable example being the Peacock Flower, the se...more
Jesse Broussard
Well, this wasn't quite on par with Wicked Bugs in my mind, but it wasn't too far shy of it. From referencing exactly what was in the sponge offered to Christ to why some streets and sidewalks are permanently red to which part of stinging nettles you can eat to what exactly will happen if you eat something that looks like a carrot but isn't, this was a pretty fun book. Of course it did include things that weren't necessarily in the plant family, which made me happy (crazy fungi that take over ra...more
Dolly
This is a fascinating catalog of deadly, intoxicating, illegal, painful, dangerous, offensive and destructive plants. It's basically an A to Z of the "botanical atrocities" of the world. Each entry is fairly short, with interesting and cautionary information as well as noteworthy anecdotes. And the seemingly neverending list of potentially deadly plants makes me want to be very cautious before ever nibbling on something in the wild. The illustrations and etchings are gorgeous and worthy of any f...more
Margarite
Wicked Plants was so much fun to read. The perfect combination of educational and horrifying. It's broken up into bite-sized chapters and you WILL be tempted read each one out loud to the unsuspecting person reading quietly beside you.

Take, for example, the section on yew trees. All parts of the plant are poisonous (except, curiously, for the berries) and they're popular in churchyards in the UK. When a yew tree that was several hundred years old fell over in an English graveyard in 1990, there...more
Donalyn
An interesting historical and scientific overview of dangerous, lethal, invasive, and just plain strange plants. Perfect for science buffs, gardeners, and writers' reference shelves.
Jackie
If you are a curious person who likes to walk in the woods, and if you enjoy gardening, then this book is for you. Plants can be both beautiful and deadly but we usually don't think about the deadly part of a plant. The author gives the scientific info on plants but also adds anecdotes which increases the pleasure of reading this book.
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Nerdy Show Book Club: Wicked Plants 1 5 Jun 17, 2012 02:29AM  
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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 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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