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May 4, 2012 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities
by Amy Stewart
Narrated by Coleen Marlo

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Tantor Media
Publish Date: June 15, 2011
Format: Audio, 4 hours | 30 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy
Rating: 4 of 5

What you don’t know about plants can kill you. Most likely they will only make you sick or uncomfortable, but deadly is a possibility. Sure, everyone knows to stay away from poison ivy and not to eat the poinsettias, but who knew there were hundreds of other plants than can be ruthless?

In Wicked Plants, Amy Stewart gives us a fascinating tour through the plant kingdom highlighting some of the most badly behaved plants on the planet. In dictionary-like style, included are both common and scientific plant name, a description of the plant plus some interesting and at times amusing stories along with warnings of the dangers of ingesting or touching it.

If you think houseplants are harmless, think again. In 2005 the Peace Lily plant caused more calls to poison control centers than any other plant. Don’t eat the Dieffenbachia or the Ficus either. Is your food safe? Not necessarily. Cashews and pistachios are part of the poison ivy family. The trees produce urishol, which causes the nasty rash. Don’t eat kidney beans raw and when a potato begins to turn green, it is producing a poison. I won’t even start on the mushroom family.

There are a lot of facts and entertaining anecdotes packed into this small book. The author offers an explanation on why spring allergies seem to be getting worse every year. Male trees. Landscapers and homeowners prefer well-behaved trees. Female trees produce messy fruit whereas male trees make small, well-behaved flowers. However, they also make pollen, which is what triggers allergies. As the number of male trees increases so does the pollen count and so do our allergies.

Bishop's Weed

Bishop’s Weed growing along my fence.

I enjoyed listening to the book, ironically, while gardening. As the author discussed the dangers of Bishop’s Weed I glanced over to the large expanse of it I am using as ground cover along a fence and made a mental note not to touch the seeds. An advantage of the audio is hearing the correct pronunciation of the scientific names of the plants read along with the common name.

For a quick, entertaining peek into the naughty plant world, the audio is an easy listen. Although it is read in a text-book like manner, the stories and anecdotes are fun to listen to. This is not the fault of the narrator but the style of the book itself. For avid gardeners, those who have a deeper interest in the plant world or want this book as a reference, the print book would be a good accompaniment to, or a better choice than, the audio.

Source: Public Library.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks) / May 5 2012 7:37 am

    I was wondering how the textbook style would work in audio, sounds like they did it pretty well. Hearing the correct pronunciations would definitely be a plus.


  2. Laura / May 5 2012 9:51 pm

    OK, I’m laughing at the idea of listening to this while gardening! I’m intrigued by this one, although I’m not really much of a plant person. Still, knowing it was well done is helpful!


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