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

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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 (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln's mother).

Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.

236 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2009

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About the author

Amy Stewart

26 books2,436 followers
Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen 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.

Stay connected with Amy via her newsletter , where she offers cocktail recipes, creative inspiration, book recommendations, and more!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,345 reviews
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
January 31, 2018
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. At that time, plants were often used to treat ailments of the body parts they most closely resembled. Birthwort was given to women to help with difficult labor, but the vine is very poisonous and carcinogenic. It certainly would have killed more women than it helped.

Profile Image for ❀Aimee❀ Just one more page....
443 reviews94 followers
November 29, 2015
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 Texas and causes paralysis and death, but symptoms don't start until days or weeks later.

The houseplant, Jerusalem cherry is beautiful.

However, all parts of the plant cause weakness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, and harm the heart.

Deadly nightshade, also known as atropa belladonna ("beautiful woman").

All parts of the plant are poisonous. Even rubbing against it can blister skin. However, we also use it for several medicines – atropine, scopolamine, donnatol, and hyoscyamine. The plant can cause rapid heart rate, confusion, hallucinations, seizures. Italian women made mild tinctures of it to dilate pupils because they thought it made them more attractive.

Some foods that humans consume have parts that are poisonous or poisonous if not prepared correctly.

CORN of all things.

If eaten as a primary staple, can cause severe niacin deficiency. If eaten with lime it becomes safe. Typically, if you're eating a well rounded diet with plenty of other foods, you won't have a problem. Symptoms include dermatitis, dementia, diarrhea, and even death.

Cashews –if the nut or a person touches the shell, it will cause a bad rash. Traditionally it is steamed open and makes them partially cooked, which makes them safe.

Green potato skin – basically if it’s green and eaten raw in large enough quantities, it can cause burning and GI symptoms, coma, and death.

Potato is a part of the nightshade family. The green happens when exposed to light and creates high solanine levels. However, this isn't typically an issue, since most people cook their potatoes and don’t eat a ton of the green flesh all at once.

The Habanero Chile:
“Strangely, the active ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, does not actually burn. It stimulates nerve endings to send a signal to the brain that mimics a burning sensation. Capsaicin does not dissolve in water, so grabbing for the water jug to put out the fire in your mouth is useless. However, it will bind to a fat like butter, milk, or cheese. A good stiff drink is also in order, as the alcohol works as a solvent.”

“But nothing could protect you against the power of Blair’s 16 Million Reserve, a so-called pharmaceutical grade hot sauce made of pure capsaicin extract. A tiny one-milliliter bottle of the clear potion sells for $199 and comes with a warning that it must be used “for experimental/display purposes only” and never as a flavoring for food.”

Jimson Weed was found on Jamestown Island in 1607. Looking for food, settlers tried to add Jimson Weed to their diet.

Death came by delusions, convulsions, and respiratory failure. 70 years later, British soldiers arrived and settlers secretly added it to their food. While they didn’t die, they went crazy for 11 days which gave settlers the upper hand. People started calling it the Jamestown weed and over time, became Jimson weed.

Giant Hogweed causes severe blisters that worsen when exposed to sunlight. It's scary because I’d never heard of it, and it’s in the Washington/Oregon area of the United States, and in Canada. It sort of looks like a huge Queen Anne's Lace.

If you're really into poisonous plants, you can visit the Alnwick poison gardens in Northumberland, England. If you go, let me know.

Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
799 reviews594 followers
June 30, 2018
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 6 million people per year. (You can probably guess what it is.)

The audiobook was narrated by Coleen Marlo, and she did a fabulous job making each culprit plant seem down right sinister. I will say that I also checked out the hardcover of this book so I could see the illustrations and read the scientific names of all the plants. There were many presented and they moved by quickly, so it was nice to have a physical copy to reference.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,214 reviews104 followers
July 5, 2019
I actually stopped reading Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities in utter frustration in September 2013 and really also in massive personal 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: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities appear almost like some kind of murder-mystery offering, with the included and featured toxic plants and noxious weeds appearing as though they were actually evilly cunning nasty villains or raging unbalanced psychopaths. However and sorry, Ms. Stewart, but plants are neither to be described as atrocities (what a terrible and cringeworthy concept that is in and of itself and the kind of attitude that in my opinion both condones and encourages the use of toxic weedkillers and so on and so on) nor are they personally evil, calculating or deliberately and nastily cruel. Honestly, please do stop with the anthropomorphism; plants are NOT human beings, and your insistence on making the included toxic and dangerous plant species appear as basically human type villains, this has really and truly utterly destroyed Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities for me, it has really and utterly ruined what might well have been a potentially enlightening and engaging reading experience (for just to point out the inherently obvious, even the most deadly, the most toxic plant species are as a general rule NOT poisonous out of inborn malice and/or evil intent, but due to the necessity of defence and protection, the need of trying to avoid being consumed, trying to avoid being destroyed).

And finally, last but most surely and definitely not least, destructive invasive, non endemic plant species are also NOT by their general nature somehow nasty and of active offensive intent (which is how to and for me Amy Stewart seems to have textually described them in Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities). No, most invasive plant species like purple loosestrife and other similarly problematic, rapidly spreading weed-like entities are dangerous and destructive not really in and of themselves but due to the fact that they often have been callously and thoughtlessly introduced into fragile ecosystems by US, by humans (introduced into ecosystems where they have no naturally occurring checks and balances and could thus profligate and spread unhindered), a fact and I guess inconvenient truth that the author generally chooses to ignore in her striving to make her featured "wicked" plant species appear overdramstised, imbued with and full of natural evil, personal nastiness and wanton and deliberate destructiveness. And thus, I cannot really give more than one star to Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities since I can on a personal level neither accept nor in any way condone this type of for me textual annoyance, this type of callous and silly anthropomorphism (toxic plants being described as deliberately cruel, invasive non endemic plant species being labeled as deliberately destructive on a personal level, that goes simply and utterly too far for me, the interest engendered, the fact that I do find the subject matter of toxic plant species very readable totally and utterly notwithstanding). And I think I will also and yes gladly refrain from even considering the sequel, where Amy Stewart analyses bugs and other insects that might be, that are considered as pests, considering that in the title she is already clearly showing us her bias by calling them, by labelling these insect species as diabolical.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,747 reviews6,672 followers
August 4, 2015
"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 fact that 3,900 people are injured annually by electrical outlets while 68,847 are poisoned by plants."
Writer Amy Stewart begins this book by saying that her intent is not to scare people away from the outdoors, but to encourage knowledge and respect. I for one have a new found respect for the power of plant life now. I do a fair share of gardening, and I have to admit that I typically plant what looks cosmetically appealing (for the exception of my must-have butterfly plants!). Of course, I knew about poison ivy and all the other commonly known skin irritating plants. I even knew about the dangers of oleander and certain berries. But did I know that two plants I have had in my backyard secrete toxins? No. Did I know the vine that is was randomly growing along my fence is poisonous? NO! But now I do. I have to admit, as knowledgeable as I feel right now, I'm also slightly paranoid in light of the fact me and my boy are doing some primitive camping next month (perfect timing huh?). But it's all good. My only regret is that I borrowed Wicked Plants via audio from the library and I don't have a physical copy to include in my camping pack...but that can be rectified. If you are a gardener, nature-lover, or even if you just enjoy nurturing houseplants, then expand your knowledge by reading this book.

Note: If you are interested in this book, I'd recommend against the audiobook if you have the option. From what I understand, there are etchings and drawings to help with identifying each plant that Ms. Stewart discusses, and audio just can't deliver this component. I listened to the audio and then had to research the visuals when I thought I recognized the description of a few plants that were in my yard. So although the audio is still effective, save yourself some time and start with the paperbook/ebook to begin with. Just a thought.

Check out Ms. Stewart's darkly comedic book trailer for Wicked Plants HERE !

Wicked Plants has inspired a national traveling exhibit at science museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. Click HERE if you would like to learn more.

Also, if interested, click HERE for a Q&A with Ms. Stewart about her book Wicked Plants.
Profile Image for Beth.
851 reviews4 followers
February 18, 2022
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 really bothered by the organization (maybe it's the librarian in me!). I would have found this more engaging arranged by the author's creative categories of Illegal, Painful, Intoxicating, Deadly...or even by plant family. There is no index, so the reader cannot get a list of all the nightshades, or search by a particular toxin.

The writing is fine - Stewart's ability to pack in a lot of really fascinating information in a small amount of space reminds me a little of Kathleen Krull, but less engaging. A glossary is lacking, along with source notes; the bibliographies are limited to books. A list of poisonous gardens is a whimsical touch.

From the poison green cover to the satiny maize colored bookmark, it's a nice package - good size, soft pages, consistent style, older fonts to give a grimoire sense to the volume. I love the botanical etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, but these are much more successful than the images by Jonathan Rosen that are illustrative of the stories Stewart relays; the two styles didn't mesh for me.

All in all, Wicked Plants has a great hook, a catchy title and is a pretty package, but this doesn't feel like a book to read straight through. It assumes some knowledge about plants (like what an angiosperm is) because it's really directed at "gardeners & nature lovers." The A-Z organization make it feel more like a reference book than it is. The writing is good, but not over the top great. Those with morbid curiosity will be drawn to it (I already know who I'm going to pass my copy along to!) and I envision some students using this as a secondary resource for a report for Health or Biology, but the casualness of the book creates reservations for me; I like sources cited.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
January 16, 2020
A quick and light review of numerous plants and their toxins. The author provides historical and anecdotal views and uses, as well as the physiological effects. Aieeee.
The only thing I really have to say about the huge variety of plants that have developed a variety of passive methods to deter insects, fungi and herbivores is, how the heck did we ever manage to find so many different plants to eat safely?
Profile Image for Fiona MacDonald.
722 reviews173 followers
September 26, 2020
What a fascinating book! Written in a clear, concise and fun manner. The plants are placed in specific categories and we have quirky little subsections called 'meet the relatives' in each category. The only bad thing about the book is it has made me terrified about going out into my garden....
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,168 reviews214 followers
August 13, 2019
I love a book that gets me googling. . . . this has every plant you could think of. I remember playing in the heart of a huge hedge of oleanders in one of the backyards of my childhood. . . .the branches spread in a very straight, organized fashion to the leaves, making a "space" just perfect to play in. I remember placing the pretty flowers and leaves on plates and pretending I was fixing food for my siblings. Don't worry, they didn't die - picky eaters, both. This book mentioned oleanders. . . .

In fact this book mentioned just about everything! Lantana, Callas, Camas, Trillium, Hydrangea, White Snakeroot. . . types heard of and not heard of.

My biggest take away is contrary to all those who work so hard to convince us that we should trust nature in its environment. I will be buying all my produce in a brand named store for the foreseeable future! No lollygagging with grass stems twined about my fingers, chewing on stalks of green or gold. IT's POISON, I TELL YOU! IT'S POISON!

Anyway. I liked this book. Was encyclopedic and very listy. 3 stars from me.
Profile Image for Viola.
371 reviews52 followers
June 19, 2019
Tas bija jauki, daudz interesantu faktu,ne tikai botānika,bet arī kāds interesants stāsts no vēstures. Indīgie augi,kā izrādās,uzglūn mums gan no piemājas dārziņa,gan tuvējās pļavas,gan mājas palodzes (daudzi istabas augi,kā redzies, ir indīgi).
Profile Image for Klaudia_p.
523 reviews85 followers
April 8, 2020
Entuzjazm i pasja autorki są niemal zaraźliwe. Chyba dlatego tak przyjemnie się to czyta.
Profile Image for Lisa.
339 reviews4 followers
July 31, 2010
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 and I found this informative site: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/poison/?secti.... Seems it is the unripe fruit and the seeds that are toxic. It is not the cooking, but the fact that you remove the seeds from pie, jelly, and wine that removes the toxin. So spit out those seeds when you eat elderberries! So much for that danger. On to the peppers. "A jalapeno pepper - generally considered to be the hottest pepper any sane person would attempt to chew and swallow". Hello? Poppers? This common bar food is eaten by thousands daily, many of whom find them to be mild. Must be a lot of us insane people out there who enjoy habaneros, bannana peppers, and the like. I suspect some of the claims about other plants may be equally exaggerated. This is about as much a reference book as Wikipedia is an encyclopedia!

The advice about poison ivy was interesting, but bad! The author recommends crusing the stem of a suspect plant between paper. If the paper turns brown it is poison ivy. Yikes! What ever happened to "leaves of 3, let it be"? And contrary to the book, poison ivy is not difficult to recognize -- my 7-yr-old can identify it. So don't go digging up your yard and ditching your houseplants to remove these "dangerous" plants. The classification of non-fiction lends a great deal of credibility to the factuality of this book. Read it for what it is, an amusing over-the-top book about plants with great botanical drawings!
Profile Image for Kater Cheek.
Author 34 books265 followers
April 18, 2012
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, each of which is interesting, and yet none of which will take longer than five or ten minutes to read. Just sayin...)

It's a little light on the science for science fans, but at least there aren't a huge cast of organic chemicals clogging up the prose like characters in a Russian novel. It's a little light on the gardening tips for passionate botanists, but has enough new facts in both categories that you'll learn new things. I didn't realize that I had three of these plants in my own yard. I knew oleander was poisonous (everyone knows that) but sago palm?

This is a good gateway book for people who aren't into non-fiction but would like to be. It's also a good book if you have anyone in your life who doesn't read much because they think novels are a waste of time.
Profile Image for Kamil.
245 reviews32 followers
July 7, 2018
"Zbrodnie roślin”, czyli opowieść o sile natury, o tym jak może być niebezpieczna i jak niewiedza może doprowadzić do naszej zguby. Ten rewelacyjny zbiór wiedzy pokazuje, jaką rangę na świecie stanowią rośliny i jak ich natura może być inwazyjna. Mimo, że może ta pozycja momentami nie jest idealna to historie, jakie się w niej znajdują są warte przeczytania. Nie dość, że książka uczy i jest ciekawa to przy okazji poszerza naszą świadomość, jeśli chodzi o rośliny, ponieważ pokazuje, że jeden głupi błąd może zadecydować o tym czy będziemy dalej żyć.
Czasami bywały opisywane nudniejsze gatunki i mimo lekko naukowego języka autorka starła się jak mogła, żeby przedstawić to tak żeby przeciętny zjadacz chleba zbytnio się nie przestraszył natłokiem terminów. Oczywiście, książka nie jest pozbawiona tego słownictwa i pojawia się ono, ale w moim odczuciu jest ono zrozumiałe w większości przypadków. Jednak to, co najważniejsze w tej książce jest to, że po prostu zaskakuje i to niejednokrotnie, czasem opisywane są rośliny, który są nam naprawdę bliskie, a potraktowane w niewłaściwy mogą być naprawdę niebezpieczne, ale to nie wszystko! Niektóre gatunki są przedziwne, niektóre dały zaczątek nawet nowej wierze, a niektóre przyczyniły się do procesu powstawania niektórych dzieł kultury a niektóre odmieniły nawet świat pod pewnym względem. Muszę przyznać, że były takie chwile, w których nie mogłem się od tej książki oderwać i chciałem cały czas dowiadywać się coraz więcej i poznawać coraz to ciekawsze rośliny. To, na co chciałbym jeszcze zwrócić uwagę to fakt, że książka opatrzona jest naprawdę cudownymi rysunkami, ale często są one niepraktyczne i gdy chciałem zobaczyć jak dana roślina wygląda (nie tylko w mojej wyobraźni) niestety musiałem sięgać do internetu. Myślę, że ta książka to coś po prostu świetnego na prezent, nie dość, że szata graficzna jest naprawdę urokliwa to i treść jest ogromnie ciekawa i myślę, że pokusiłby się na nią nawet ktoś, kto z reguły nie czyta i mówię to z własnego doświadczenia, bo opowiadając innym o tej książce wzbudziła ona nie małe zainteresowanie. Bardzo wam tę książkę polecam i jak na literaturę popularnonaukową jest to naprawdę perełka, bo sam nienawidzę naukowego żargonu, ale tu było inaczej i to doświadczenie było bardzo pozytywne.
Profile Image for Amy.
7 reviews3 followers
April 16, 2013
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 plants falling into multiple categories which are ill-defined and haphazard, this book fatigued but did not enlighten me.
Specifically, I was hoping for a clarification of botanical chemistry and pharmacodynamics nestled in charming anecdotes, legends and actual historical records (or at least etymology, basic mechanism of action and receptor affinity).
No dice. Frustratingly, there was little acknowledgement of the vital & beneficial role many of these plants played in folk medicine and the present-day development of life-saving cheap synthetic analogues by pharmacists-- e.g., digoxin, aspirin and coumadin are widely prescribed, affordable, effective and directly derived from "wicked" plants. Ditto for atropine, a mainstay of cardiac resuscitation and an essential antidote to nerve gas; or rocuronium, a curare analogue which is essential in modern surgical anesthesia.
It's sort of the "pulp fiction" of naughty plant history with minimal citations and slipshod evidence to support the "atrocities." Anything NOT lascivious about the subject was essentially discarded. Further, the pencil illustrations were lurid and childlike.
Bizarre and unsatisfying overall.
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,654 reviews208 followers
May 12, 2021
An A-Z guide to all sorts of weird and deadly plants. It's interesting, but don't expect a narrative. This is a great little book to leave on your nightstand and randomly open for a page or two.
Profile Image for Susan in NC.
913 reviews
July 9, 2019
I enjoyed this book, as an amateur but enthusiastic gardener, but also as an armchair popular science nerd.

Amy Stewart’s entertaining, humorous yet informative style, and the layout of the Kindle book I read, allow readers to dip in and out of the information, and read as much or as little as they like each time.

I will keep an eye out for a copy of this book to buy for my collection of gardening books, it is helpful and interesting. The author offers common sense advice like always wear gloves in the garden, never ingest berries or leaves you find or are given unless you can identify them (as she wisely points out, you wouldn’t drink from a cup of coffee you found sitting on the roadside!), and if you think you or a loved one or pet has ingested or rubbed against one of these potentially harmful plants, don’t leaf through the book for information, call poison control immediately!

Her humor shines through, as does her fascination and respect for the natural world, as she guides readers through quick, short chapters like “This Houseplant Could be your last”, “Deadly Dinner” and “Botanical Crime Families”. Gardeners, indeed anyone who spends time outdoors, would benefit and learn a lot from this book, and be entertained in the process!
Profile Image for Melissa Bennett.
791 reviews11 followers
August 6, 2020
Great book with lots of interesting information. I ended up having the physical book and also had the book on Audible by accident. I found that it was nice to listen to the Audible version as I followed the book with it. With Audible, the pronunciations of all of the plants were nicely done but the book had lots of drawings that I wanted to look at as well. Some of the information I knew and some just blew me away.
Profile Image for Malia.
896 reviews22 followers
August 21, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Pamela.
92 reviews22 followers
October 16, 2019
Wonderfully informative and fascinating. Perhaps a bit dry here and there but balanced out with interesting anecdotes. I will never look at a cashew nut the same again.
Profile Image for Ann☕.
303 reviews
November 27, 2019
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

This book might be a good choice for people who are a bit squeamish and would rather skip Stewart's Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects. After reading Wicked Plants, I was surprised how many houseplants and common garden plants are toxic and it made me wonder why there aren't clearer standards for labeling by growers and nurseries. Otherwise, it also made me wonder historically how many people lost their lives or became ill while trying to figure out which plants were safe to eat and which weren't.

As with my similar criticism of Wicked Bugs, I wish the author had included photographs for identification purposes. In this case, I really did not care for the illustrations at all, even from an artistic perspective. Still I appreciate books I learn something useful from and knowing a few plants in my garden can potentially cause major skin irritation is definitely useful.
Profile Image for Kuba ✌.
267 reviews46 followers
July 27, 2021
oczekiwałem czegoś innego, ale doceniam research zrobiony przez autorke do przygotowania tej książki🙌
Profile Image for JE.
100 reviews3 followers
August 27, 2011
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?

That’s what I liked about this book. It’s not a dry encyclopedia of wicked plants. Every plant has its own wicked story.

Did you know there are male plants and female plants, and male plants are the ones responsible for all our allergy problems? Are we really surprised, ladies?

Did you know atropine (extracted from plants like Deadly Nightshade), which causes various horrible symptoms when ingested, is sometimes added to addictive painkillers to keep patients from getting hooked? Well done, laboratory chemists! But I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way…

Anyhow, the plants in Wicked Plants are organized alphabetically, but I would have preferred if they had been organized categorically first, like Destructive, Illegal, Intoxicating, Offensive, Painful, Dangerous, Deadly… and then organized alphabetically within those categories. I like to read about my plants categorically. Also, it contains lots of cool drawings and etchings, but I still found myself Googling real pictures of the plants to get a better idea.

On that note, I Googled this offensive plant called “slobber weed,” which, when ingested, causes a person to drool two or more pints of saliva, and Google gave me a bunch of pictures of hippies “drooling” over their marijuana. Slobber weed.

Yes, this was a swell read. And I had no prior interest in plants. Recommend.
Profile Image for Sue Smith.
1,219 reviews53 followers
January 8, 2012
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 etchings. More the etchings. They were exquisite. Soooooo detailed it felt like you could reach out and touch them. Really helped to show the beauty and the beast in the plants - how deceptive the beauty can be. The illustrations were macabre, to say the least, but they certainly gave you the true understanding of the nature of the plant. I think my favorite one was the Botanical Crime Families - had a strong resemblance to the Godfather!!

Mainly, I love how this little tome was laid out - alphabetical but broken up by small 'chapters' on groupings. The plants all were introduced with a small but interesting story that involved some poor unfortunate that had a run in with said plant that usually didn't end well. All plants were given a brief history and symptoms you should expect if you decide to ingest them, as well as the latin name and the other given names by locals,etc.

It's a quick read actually, but would be really handy to have on your shelf on the off chance you decide to try that 'weed' that looks and smells just like celery in your next culinary creation. Me - I'll stick to the tried and true! But, it's always good to know!!
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