Synopses & Reviews
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.
Hailed as "a profound and sympathetic meditation on weeds in relation to human beings" (Sunday Times), Weeds shows how useful these unloved plants can be, from serving as the first crops and medicines, to bur-dock inspiring the invention of Velcro, to cow parsley becoming the latest fashionable wedding adornment. Mabey argues that we have caused plants to become weeds through our reckless treatment of the earth, and he delivers a provocative defense of the plants we love to hate.
"As popular British science writer Mabey (Food for Free) observes, 'weeds are our most successful cultivated crop.' They rely on humans who inadvertently cultivate their soil, sow their seeds, and transport them around the globe. This lively, erudite work invites readers to take a new look at the lowly and unloved weed. Mabey explains how weeds have cunningly evolved to survive natural disasters, human devastation, climate change, and almost every attempt to eradicate them. He weaves together a complex, fascinating tale of history and botany that travels from the first farm fields of Mesopotamia to the bomb craters of the London Blitz and the lowly industrial outfields of our modern cities. The ubiquitous weeds are alternately menacing and redemptive. Mabey's stories are filled with obscure history, engaging characters, and descriptions of threatening invasive plants that can rival any science fiction thriller. Weeds mock our best efforts to control them and they may very well survive us. In this thought-provoking, engrossing natural history, Mabey deftly argues that the world's most unloved plants deserve our fascination and respect. 12 b&w line drawings. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“[A] witty and beguiling meditation on weeds and their wily ways….You will never look at a weed, or flourish a garden fork, in the same way again.”
—Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder
“In this fascinating, richly detailed book, Richard Mabey gives weeds their full due.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of Evolution
Richard Mabey, Great Britains Britains “greatest living nature writer” (London Times), has written a stirring and passionate defense of natures most unloved plants. Weeds is a fascinating, eye-opening, and vastly entertaining appreciation of the natural worlds unappreciated wildflowers that will appeal to fans of David Attenborough, Robert Sullivans Rats, Amy Stewarts Wicked Plants, and to armchair gardeners, horticulturists, green-thumbs, all those who stop to smell the flowers.
About the Author
Richard Mabey is widely hailed as Britain's fore-most nature writer. He is the author of the groundbreaking book on foraging in the countryside Food for Free and the editor of The Oxford Book of Nature Writing. He has narrated and produced popular BBC television and radio series, and has written for the Guardian, Granta, and other publications. He lives in Norfolk, England.