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Books  >>  Gardening

Richard Mabey

Weeds

Richard Mabey Weeds In Defense Of Nature's Most Unloved Plants
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Main description:

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.

Review quote:

“[W]onderful. . . . [P]resents a compelling case that weeds, the opportunists of the plant world, play a vital role in filling the empty spaces of the earth caused by natural disasters or human events.”

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“A charming paean to plants sometimes ignored and often detested.”

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“A jaunty chronicle of botany and history that ventures from the first farm fields of Mesopotamia to the broken asphalt of our modern cities.”

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“A lively [and] fascinating tale of history and botany.... Mabey deftly argues that the world’s most unloved plants deserve our fascination and respect.”

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“A loving and lyrical tribute... Mabey’s deft and spirited treatise on nature’s supervillains will have readers remembering A.A. Milne’s defense of weeds in Winnie the Pooh: ‘Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.’”

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“A lyrical, wise, witty, intimate musing about garden outcasts—and about us, too.”

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“A readable, wide-ranging, carefully documented, and personal look at a group of plants not often written about in a sympathetic manner. Recommended.”

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“As witty and lively as it is comprehensive. . . . A stimulating sojourn with the world’s most fascinating and ingenious plants.”

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“Captivating. . . . Mabey is a comprehensive guide who wears his learning as lightly as a dandelion seedhead. There’s no fluff here, though, only fascinating fodder for thought.”

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“Elegant and thoughtful. . . . I may not turn the mower aside when I encounter the next thistly, pod-bearing stem. But I will stop, stoop and take a closer look.”

Review quote:

“Enchanting. . . . Weeds charms as much as it informs. . . . After reading this book, you will likely view the invaders in your own garden with a newfound respect; it’s quite possible you’ll find a bit of romance in them, too.”

Review quote:

“Enlightening. . . . After reading this book, you’ll look d

“[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 Britain’s Britain’s “greatest living nature writer” (London Times), has written a stirring and passionate defense of nature’s most unloved plants.  Weeds is a fascinating, eye-opening, and vastly entertaining appreciation of the natural world’s unappreciated wildflowers that will appeal to fans of David Attenborough, Robert Sullivan’s Rats, Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants, and to armchair gardeners, horticulturists, green-thumbs, all those who stop to smell the flowers.


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