How I found this book is by a podcast from Australia. First let me confess, I love the unexplained/unsolved/mysterious of the world from tales of ghosts to UFO to unsolved murders I’m up to hear the story. One of the ways I regularly feed this is by listening to podcasts. Now, Audible Books is a sponsor of many podcasts. One particular one I enjoy regularly is Mysterious Universe. During the plug for Audible the two hosts often recommend books they have enjoyed, it was here I learned of Wicked Plants. I will never eye a plant the same again.
Wicked Plants is non-fiction that I would say falls into what I call readable non-fiction. Think of two of my favorite authors – Mary Roach and Bill Bryson – their non-fiction books are humorous, informative, and enjoyable. This one fall right in there with those and I will be looking for other titles by Amy Stewart. In this book she takes each type of ‘wicked’ plant (plants that can harm you) goes through the bad boys of that type, tells what they do to you, give you a few interesting tales to hang the facts onto in your memory, then names familiar relatives of the bad boy. For example – Poison Ivy gives you a rash. She explains how this works, why some are barely sensitive and others are ‘exquisitely” sensitive, and then names cashew nuts and mangoes as familiar family members. BUT did you know that only the nut of cashews won’t give you the rash? She explains how you get the delicious nut from a hull and plant that is wicked. Also she tells tales of the exquisitely sensitive to poison ivy that ate the mango. It’s not pretty and that cherry orange fruit and smile shaped nut will never look the same to you. I learned there are plants whose ripe seed pods explode with such force that being struck by is seed is like being shot by a .22 gun. Yes she explains how a weed killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother and just what berries look like bilberries but eating just one will kill you – imagine the family that made them into a pie!
I found myself marking passages and taking notes for use of plants in future plot lines. Oh the uses of the suicide plant in a devious murder… maybe a poison that modern investigators would not think to look for unless the death was suspicious. The story possibilities whirled in my mind. This is a book I will revisit when a wicked character has to clandestinely kill someone or a sharp detective needs a break on difficult case. Also if I’m a fretting mom about what berry did my pet just eat? I can’t tell how many times I cringed remembering my son asking if a berry of a plant I didn’t know in his grandparent’s neighbor’s yard was poisonous. I said I didn’t know. He said “I sure hope not because I just ate one on a dare.” (Yes my insides still scream at that one) Turns out it must not have been as he’s still around and doing well.
This is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to friends who like me love information. When I closed it I knew it was one that I will always keep and enjoy reading again some day to discover another tidbit that didn’t stick this time. However my strolls through gardens or walks in the woods will never be the same as I eye the possibly wicked greenery around me. You never know when a plant might shoot you or literally hook you causing pain for life!
Until next time!