April 16, 2019 11:07 AM - by Richard Mabey - Subscribe

The true story—and true glories—of the plants we love to hate From dandelions to crabgrass, stinging nettles to poison ivy, weeds are familiar, pervasive, widely despised, and seemingly invincible. How did they come to be the villains of the natural world? And why can the same plant be considered beautiful in some places but be deemed a menace in others?

In Weeds, renowned nature writer Richard Mabey embarks on an engaging journey with the verve and historical breadth of Michael Pollan. Weaving together the insights of botanists, gardeners, artists, and writers with his own travels and lifelong fascination, Mabey shows how these "botanical thugs" can destroy ecosystems but also can restore war zones and derelict cities; he reveals how weeds have been portrayed, from the "thorns and thistles" of Genesis to Shakespeare, Walden, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and he explains how kudzu overtook the American South, how poppies sprang up in First World War battlefields, and how "American weed" replaced the forests of Vietnam ravaged by Agent Orange.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a book I read a while ago and largely liked, although the author is a bit of an English upper class twit type and some of his digressions and tangents had me shaking my head a bit. I have been repeatedly reminded this book as I garden this year, some of the weeds I'm getting are really spectacular wildflowers. Several times on the blue also when discussing native versus invasive plants people mention that the language around that can be almost eugenicist, with the implication that you should erase all non-native plants from your yard and garden and the glee with which people talk about eradication. It's not that non-native plants can't be destructive, but they are also survivors and indicators of how connected we all are today. This book gets into the fact that weeds are here to stay and most are quite harmless. Some in fact are native to their respective areas, but only arise after great upheaval, like the flowers that only bloom after a fire. A good book for anyone who thinks a dandelion is a pretty thing.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:14 AM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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