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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • Overall
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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.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Sleep inducing

The information is interesting if you can stay awake long enough to get to it. This is, in essence, a dictionary. Not a good audible experience!

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Cartec
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 10-29-17

Not audible material

I don't have a photographic memory so this book although entertaining was a waste of time. Ms. Stewart explained in some detail plants that can kill and are harmful to mankind, animals and other plants. In places it was down right creepy. So while listening it was very interesting but for me the moment I put the book down I had forgotten most of the information presented. I strongly recommend this book to any botanist or biologist interested in plants and their effect on humans, or as a reference for avoiding dangerous plants. For those of us not in the field it was not useful as an audible book. I would also recommend that if you are interested in this milieu get the hard copy.
Ms. Stewart could have improved this work by adding more antidotes and other hooks to assist the reader in remembering the material.

I must say that Ms. Marlo was stupendous. She presented with acumen that was astonishing. She was able to read for hours and not once did she stumble or mispronounce a single word and I can attest that there were more fourteen letter words than conjunctions in the book. She is definitely a master.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Poisonous, odd, interesting & obscure

Very interesting, informative, and a bit horrifying! Learn things that sound like a fiction, the oddities will strike you with fascination! Great quick read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very average.

What did you like about this audiobook?

There were some interesting anecdotes spread throughout the book.

How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

It didn't really increase my interest in the subject matter.

Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

No, she does not.

What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

When narrating the taxonomy, her voice sounded like an automated message.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A dictionary of scary plants

This is not a book for plant lovers who enjoy celebrating nature by reading sympathetic and personal relationships with flora such as the works of Michael Pollan or "Weeds" by Richard Mabey. It is simply a compilation of brief descriptions of plants that are harmful to people, their economy or pets. The personal and social notes accompanying the often scary facts appear to be more in service of accentuating the shock value than in in elucidating the natural or social history of the plant in question.

On the other hand, It does cover a wide range of plants throughout the word and provides the botanical names for each species, which is very useful if you want to seek more information about the plant. After listening to the audiobook I ordered a hard copy as a reference book, but it's not on my night table.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Excellent overview of the killer plant world

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

Very nice overview of the "bad plant" world. Interesting anecdotes used to illustrate the plants' vices.

Would you be willing to try another book from Amy Stewart? Why or why not?

Yes. Well written and a very nice overview.

What three words best describe Coleen Marlo’s performance?

Steady, straightforward and smooth

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

Not really the type of book that would be easily transferred into film

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie
  • Toney, Alabama
  • 12-12-17

Plant Voo Doo for Your Listening Ears

I had a ball listening to this book about the history . . . and mystery . . . of a myriad of plants that can kill, make you ill, itch, devour insects, and sometimes heal . . . from ancient civilizations to the current times, people have used plants, seeds, leaves, roots for food . . . and to murder one another . . . interesting stuff here!

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Would be much better in the print edition

Basically an a-to-z listing of various poisonous plants. Would be a great handbook but I found it hard to listen to. There really is no "story" per se.

Get the print edition instead.