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Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities | [Amy Stewart]

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

Beware! The sordid lives of plants behaving badly. 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. Amy Stewart, best-selling author of Flower Confidential, takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature's most appalling creations in an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Author/Gardener Amy Stewart and reader Coleen Marlo have followed up Wicked Plants with a new audiobook detailing the sinister elements that could be lurking in floral bouquets, backyard gardens, or even that plate of vegetables on the dinner table. Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities continues in the vein of Wicked Bugs, giving a brief history of known botanical problems: poison ivy, hemlock, oleander, etc., but also adding tidbits about obscure plants to be assiduously avoided. While Coleen Marlo's playful tone makes the most of Stewart's creative descriptions, both the text and the reader continually emphasize the need for safety and easy access to the phone number for Poison Control when reaction to a plant is ever in question.

Marlo clearly enjoys herself as she reads through "Death by Lawn", "Weeds of Mass Destruction", and "Vegetable Wickedness". It is the little things that are the most interesting, though, such as Marlo's presentation of "ordeal beans", which, for a while in Nigeria became a Monty Python-esque method of determining innocence or guilt through the ingesting the toxic calabar bean. Or how simply passing by a henbane plant could cause folks to swoon, which is why ancient Romans attempted to use the plant as an anesthesia.

Stewart's research encompasses plants that strangle, sicken, sting, cause hives, and in general irritate through their seeds, leaves, fragrance, and oils. Marlo's delivery brings forth the irony and/or humor inherent in plants with names from "vomitwort" and "corpse flower". There are fascinating facts as Stewart details and Marlo presents the sometimes fine line between plant as healer - castor oil from castor beans - to plant as murderer - the horrific poison, ricin, is an extract from that same castor bean plant. There is malevolence to be found in the book from unstoppable water hyacinth vines, fast-growing bushes of purple loosestrife, and the pestilence of killer algae in our oceans. Wicked Plants tells of a world pretty much taken over by insidious plant life, perhaps increasing its sinister control while a human population is distracted by smartphones, computer screens, and iPads. Fortunately for the audiobook aficionados, listeners can remain alert to the encroaching kudzu while enjoying Amy Stewart's highly entertaining writing and Coleen Marlo's enthusiastic descriptions in Wicked Plants. Oh, and remember to avoid exploding plants! — Carole Chouinard

Publisher's Summary

Beware! The sordid lives of plants behaving badly. 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. Amy Stewart, best-selling author of Flower Confidential, takes on over 200 of Mother Nature's most appalling creations in an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend.

Stewart renders a vivid portrait of evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, enlighten, and alarm even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.

©2009 Amy Stewart (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Culling legend and citing science, Stewart's fact-filled, A-Z compendium of nature's worst offenders offers practical and tantalizing composite views of toxic, irritating, prickly, and all-around ill-mannered plants." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (119 )
5 star
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3.7 (98 )
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3.8 (102 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Julia 10-10-12
    Julia 10-10-12 Member Since 2008

    I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

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    "For the Casual Nerd"
    Any additional comments?

    This is an enjoyable book for those who also like to read tidbits of trivia, in this case about poisonous plants. I listened to this while I ran on the treadmill during my workout. Lots of neat stuff to learn about without being too weighed down with specific scientific speak. For the casual nerd who doesn't necessarily have to be into plants.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bracken mocksville, nc, United States 12-13-11
    bracken mocksville, nc, United States 12-13-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Wonderful book. Informative and entertaining."

    This is another book I can listen to over and over. Amy Stewart is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. And Coleen Marlo is one of my favorite 'readers' too...very expressive, she holds my attention through the entire book. This is a great book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tina ALLSTON, MA, United States 11-09-11
    Tina ALLSTON, MA, United States 11-09-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Buy the Book"

    i would highly recommend you purchase the printed version of this book. the text is interesting, but it reads like an encyclopedia.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 04-23-13
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 04-23-13 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Grows on You Like Kudzu"

    Amy Stewart just published the already much referenced “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks” (2013).” I knew when I finished “The Drunken Botanist” I’d never settle for a badly made cocktail. Just yesterday, I was annoyed to see a “martini” menu at a well known chain restaurant (whose name resembles The Cheesecake Factory) listing only “vodka martinis”. Thanks to Stewart’s help, I made sure I got a real martini – made with gin.

    “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities” (2009) is much shorter than “The Drunken Botanist”, and not quite as fun. There are no drink recipes in this one, but plenty of advice on what NOT to eat or drink.

    In Stewart’s hands, each ‘wicked plant’ takes on a distinct personality. Some are bullying newcomers, like Japanese-native kudzu, which was imported for erosion control but is invading the American south. Some plants are deceptive, like foxglove. Used correctly, it produces the life saving digitalis. Used incorrectly, foxglove kills. It turns out the ubiquitous but much-maligned poinsettia plant is an irritant, not a poison.

    I realized – and was quite disconcerted – that I am surrounded by poisonous plants. There are beautiful but poisonous oleander trees in my yard, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen hemlock in my yard, and, thinking back on it – as much as I loved pulling up and eating raw rhubarb as a child, I’m very lucky I’m here.

    “Wicked Plants”, like Stewart’s “Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects” (2011), is an A to Z encyclopedia of the bad boys of the natural world.

    I wondered if I might have been better off with “Wicked Plants” in print so that I could see what Stewart was describing. I thought about it, and realized that if I had done that, I wouldn’t have had Colleen Marlo’s narration to tell me how to pronounce the names.

    I’m not sure that I’ll buy “Wicked Plants” in text (I will buy “The Drunken Botanist” on paper for the recipes!), but it was definitely worth the listen.

    [If you found this review helpful, please let me know by hitting the 'helpful' button! Thanks.]

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 01-31-12
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 01-31-12 Member Since 2004
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    "How did they do it???"
    What made the experience of listening to Wicked Plants the most enjoyable?

    Amy Stewart has accomplished a remarkable feat! She has made what essentially should be a field guide to noxious weeds into an interesting audible book! The book gives a lot of botanical facts - interspersed with a lot of personal stories about the effect of the various weeds on people . . . as well as habitat. What really impressed me, however, was Coleen Marlo's impeccable Latin! She lets those compliccated botanical names roll off her tongue like a true native! Interesting read/listen - but I'm still not convinced that this is the best format to truly appreciate this work!


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Antioch, CA, United States 03-19-12
    Charles Antioch, CA, United States 03-19-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Very interesting facts. I loved it. Good read."
    If you could sum up Wicked Plants in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, factual, great!


    What other book might you compare Wicked Plants to and why?

    Wicked Bugs. Same context, different life.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Non applicable.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Wicked! The movie.


    Any additional comments?

    Great series. Do more, please.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fuzzy 03-18-12
    Fuzzy 03-18-12

    Fuzzy Logic

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    "Fascinating!"
    What made the experience of listening to Wicked Plants the most enjoyable?

    I liked the way she described the chemical reactions to the human body for each type of plant. It amazed me about the effects of corn!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Wicked Plants?

    Who knew that Deadly Nightshade is related to the tomato? And nicotine from the tobacco leaf is a neurotoxin. This kind of information is absolutely invaluable.


    What about Coleen Marlo’s performance did you like?

    The narrator was very consistent as there is a specific format to each plant type. She was very engaging.


    Any additional comments?

    I had to have the hardcover and have bought several copies for friends. I highly recommend it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Oakridge, OR, United States 09-16-11
    Amazon Customer Oakridge, OR, United States 09-16-11 Member Since 2002

    Nature, animals, sociobiology, science, spirituality art, travel, healthy cooking are my main interests. I love a great novel but don't enjoy works where there is no real point just one description of people after another. I wont read Steven King anymore because of one scene in his book that put an experience in my head I didn't need to have.

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    "great information but"

    it is just to hard without pictures this is one book that would have really benefited from a pdf readalong file. It also got a bit discounterting to hear over and over "meet the realitives"
    still well worth the listen and great information. It could save your life to know not to cook marshmellows on a daphne stick! I think that alone makes it worth getting.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-23-14

    ZEN. LDS. GTD. FTW.

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    "Worthwhile"

    Informative and enjoyable, but not enthralling by any stretch. There were a lot of solid takeaways that made Wicked Plants entirely worthwhile to listen to, so I recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gabrielle 11-19-13
    Gabrielle 11-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "We are not even safe inside!"

    It is evidently clear that nature is intent on killing us and that is that. Plants are the likely culprit and this book tells you who it might be. This terrifying book lists one thing after another that will kill, injure or poison you, it is a scary gallop through a long list of terror ... and I loved every little bit of it. Glorious plants of all sorts are listed herein and the ways they want to hurt you is detailed in beautiful detail. It is so very interesting and reading this may also one day save your life! As a result of reading this fabulous book, I have more respect for my plants and have moved my poisonous houseplants out of reach of my naughty Chihuahua, thankfully before anything bad happened. I worry that listening to this book audibly might make people you live with feel uncomfortable, and listening to such terrible information does feel a little devious, but oh wow is it ever interesting stuff, especially for a plant nerd such as myself.

    I noticed the reader changed the way she pronounced plant family names along the way which is good because she ended up saying it correctly - although the words end with '-ceae' and that looks like it should sound complicated, the correct way to say it is 'ee-ee'. I know this from asking a latin-fluent eminent biologist.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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