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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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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  6,537 Ratings  ·  916 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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lori
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a nice desk reference for some plants. Mostly toxic plants, but some simply smell bad or disperse their seeds by attaching seed pods to you or your pet. I’m still not sure why they are wicked.

About birthworts, I can't see a pipe.
Birthworts (Aristolochia clematitis)
Climbing vines that produce bizarre flowers that vaguely resemble pipes, which is how they got their other common name, Dutchman’s pipe. The Greeks looked at the flower and saw something else: a baby emerging from the birth canal.
...more
Richard Derus
Jul 31, 2011 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
Book of Secrets
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
WICKED PLANTS was an Audible Daily Deal, and with that title and cover, I couldn't resist downloading it. The book is a curious and often unsettling encyclopedia of plants that have caused harm in one way or another throughout the centuries. I don't think a lot about plants being dangerous, but after reading this I definitely should. I was surprised that even some everyday foods can be harmful. (There's a reason cashews aren't sold in their shell.) However the most harmful of plants kills nearly ...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
Kathleen Bianchi
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting and educational. Written well and with humor.
Manybooks
I actually stopped reading Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants in utter frustration in September 2013 and really also in massive disgust, when I realised with a vehement sense of "oh no" that while the botanical information and details on the presented toxic, dangerous and destructive plant species are most definitely and indeed interestingly and even fascinatingly enough recounted, it simply bothered and continues to annoy me to no end that the author has made Wicked Plants appear almost like some kind ...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Really interesting. I don't think I'll ever eat figs again though.
Beth
Jun 25, 2009 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
Lisa
Aug 04, 2009 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 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 15, 2013 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
Jenny
Aug 26, 2011 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 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
Malia
Jun 09, 2011 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.
Akira
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I seriously 😳 loved this book 📖! 🌱🌱🌱 SoOoOo much so that I want to own it & the other book 📚 in the series. It’s an excellent little read of fun facts. I love that there’s a section that references Guam 🇬🇺 🦇🌴😍!!! That fact alone had me super excited and reading aloud to everyone around me lol, but seriously it’s a great little read and definitely something to add to your nonfiction collection- especially if you have particular morbid interests 😉🤫
Sue Smith
Jan 06, 2012 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
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Nikki
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wicked Plants is one of those books which seems, to me, more like the sort of thing you dip into, flip through, and ultimately probably leave on the bookshop shelf. The illustrations are quite pretty, and some of the facts are entertaining, but all in all it becomes a list of facts, grouped into categories of varying usefulness/interest.

If you’re fascinated by all the ways the natural world can kill us, this might well be your thing — and if you love plants in general, and spend a lot of time ga
...more
Lauren
Jun 11, 2009 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 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfict, science
Very fun and interesting - and now I don't touch anything when I go outside. Ever.
Robyn
Jul 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
What happens when you abandon ethos and choose inappropriate evidence to induce shock? You get Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants.
Lis Carey
If you need to research some clever poisons for your next murder mystery, you could do worse than start your search for candidates here. It's a quick and readable introduction to the wide world of dangerous plants, with the fun and exciting (well, if you share some of my gallows humor) basics on the major ones plus the relatives of these dangerous plants.

But that's not all this book offers. It's not just clever murder methods. It's also the stuff won't kill you (probably), but will make you sick
...more
FabulousRaye
Informative and surprisingly funny in parts. It does tell you about plants that can be used for murder and suicide purposes.
Jessi
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I was expecting more of a Mary Roach vibe, but this is a super anecdotal guide book. The trivia vibe is fun and the presentation is good, but I was hoping for something a bit more substantial, which was my fault.
Claire Greene
Dec 09, 2009 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
Shawn Thrasher
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to Wicked Plants, but I was kind of disappointed. It wasn't what I wanted it to be at all. I once read this book called The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators, which was this magnificent book of essays all about spiders, particularly the poisonous kind. Gruesomely interesting, eloquently written, full of fascinating information delicately doled out like caviar at a wedding reception - it's been my touchstone for books of essays and books of information ever since. Wicked ...more
Stephanie
Jul 31, 2010 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
Rayna Davis
May 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I couldn't decide if this book was supposed to be farcical or not; it was so melodramatic. Its claims of danger seem to be overrated. It was not so much a narrative, but an encyclopedia with a story or two on some of the plants. I am not likely to remember every plant and its toxin but most of the effects were similar so I might remember those, so it was kind of pointless. I was surprised at how many of these I have actually cultivated in gardens and in life. This book frightened me, but in a go ...more
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1,433 followers
Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of nine books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants.

She lives in Portland with her husband Scott Brown, a rare book dealer. They own an independent bookstore called Eureka Books, which is so independent that it lives in California while they live in Oregon.

You can also find her all over
...more
More about Amy Stewart

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“A poisonous seed will only kill you if you chew it and swallow.” 4 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…