Fun books about plants

wickedplantssmNote that I didn’t title this post “Fun Gardening Books”, because the books I’m reading really have nothing to do with gardening. “Wicked Plants – A Book of Botanical Atrocities” is a fascinating read. Who hasn’t read an old mystery thriller where someone was slipped some deadly nightshade, or wondered about the ingredients used in the potions in Professor Snape’s classroom in the Harry Potter books? Author Amy Stewart draws on history, medicine, science, and legend to create the most delightful little snippets about plants, shrubs, trees, roots, and other myriad specimens from the plant world.

Examples:

  • The deranged behavior that led to the Salem witch trials may have been caused by ERGOT (Claviceps purpura), a fungus that grows on rye and causes wild hallucinations
  • MONKSHOOD (Aconitum napellus) contains a toxin so powerful that Nazi scientists used it in poisoned bullets
  • The First Sacred War (595-585 BC) is believed by some historians to have been won after a Greek military alliance poisoned the water supply of the city of Kirrha with HELLEBORE (Helleborus spp.).
  • The KGB used ricin, the poison in CASTOR BEAN (Ricinus communis), to murder communist defectors.
  • WH I T E SNA K E RO O T (Eupatorium rugosum) causes cows to produce poison milk, resulting in the deadly illness called milk sickness that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother

When you need a break from weeding or planting or fertilizing, grab a cold beverage and this fun book in your favorite patch of shade this summer.

I’m next going to tackle Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist – The Plants That Create the World’s Best Drinks”.

Written and posted by Vicki

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