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Weeds: How vagabond plants gatecrashed…

Weeds: How vagabond plants gatecrashed civilisation and changed the way we…

by Richard Mabey

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
did not finish. It was interesting but I was getting frustrated by the lack of pictures. I would have loved to have seen photographs or at least line drawings of the plants he was discussing. Any good natural science book needs equally good illustrations to better enable the reader to correctly identify the subjects discussed in the real world.
  wrightja2000 | Sep 6, 2018 |
This is mostly a history of plants that may be considered weeds – basically, plants that are somewhere where a human doesn’t want it to be. It looks at how they travel, plants that were used medicinally, how they (re)populate decimated areas. He looks at how they’ve been viewed in history, including in literature, and more.

It was ok. Some parts were interesting, and others were dry. I probably tuned out a lot when he was looking at literature (except “In Flanders Fields”, which has more meaning). I still love the idea of the book, though! ( )
  LibraryCin | May 9, 2018 |
“Weeds” should be a history of weeds around the world and how they’ve impacted man, been the source of medicine, worked their way into art, and more.

But it’s not quiet that. It’s mostly how weeds infiltrate British gardens.

OK, so it’s more than that, but that’s what it felt like to me in the long run.

England is crazy about gardening, and one of those crazy gardeners is the author. So, most of the writing is from that perspective. It’s fun for what it is, but I wanted more cultural history, and a global perspective. But I guess it wasn’t really going to happen with this writer.

Another problem was that the author used a lot of colloquial names for the weeds he discussed, but that means if you’re outside of England, you don’t really know what he’s talking about (unless and until he clarified or used American names).

What did he miss? As I said, medicine, weeds as food, the interaction between weeds and insects, or birds, or animals.

There were interesting sections, like how weeds took over bombing sites after WWII.

All in all, an OK book, but not what I was hoping for.

Read more of my reviews at Ralphsbooks. ( )
1 vote ralphz | Apr 23, 2018 |
Richard Mabey knows his weeds. Seriously. You know those nutty birdwatchers with their field guides and binoculars—that's Mabey with weeds. Yes, you say, but those birdwatchers go out on field hunts searching for rare birds—so does Mabey with a group of botanical nerds, searching for alien weeds in the refuse of British dumps. When a potential alien weed is found, a whistle is blown, everyone gathers around, photographs are taken, and debate ensues. The weed is then carefully removed, bagged, and a member is chosen to cultivate the weed at home. Mabey knows his weeds.

Because Mabey clearly knows what he is talking about, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Assuming everything he said in this book is true, weeds are pretty amazing. Not only are they incredibly resilient, but they're smart. You thought Little Shop of Horrors was bad, wait until you see what our weeds are working on. Weeds is an excellent foray into the world of weeds. Here you see the weed through the lens of the historian, philosopher, scientist, socioeconomist, poet, and agriculturist.

Weeds are fascinating, but this book lags at times. When a person is truly passionate about a subject, they can easily overdo it. Mabey tells some wonderful stories about weeds, but he also tells ones that are difficult to make it through. Not to mention that introduction. It was over the top. I'm not sure who Mabey was writing for, but it didn't work. The language was incredibly forced. For Mabey's “entrée into the world of plants,” “on the tumuli of the old tips” where “a galaxy of more modest weeds tricked out the compacted layers of plastic and glass that passed for soil,” the “plants felt like comrades in arms, vegetable guerrillas that had overcome the dereliction of the industrial age.” Had the whole book read like those first five pages, I would've thrown it across the room and happily given it one star. Fortunately, Mabey figured out who his readers were and tossed this pomp verbosity into the compost bin.

Personally, I think Michael Pollan is a more engaging writer on the subject, and I recommend his Second Nature to anyone with even the most remote interest in nature. Mabey isn't as engrossing as Pollan, but I think he knows his stuff. He may even know more than Pollan does. And so, I recommend his Weeds to anyone with a deeper appreciation for the subject. It may be what saves you when the triffids finally have their day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqrLqg3w6AU ( )
2 vote chrisblocker | Oct 7, 2013 |
The book is written by an Englishman and I wanted more information about weeds in America. However, the focus on how a weed is defined within time and culture is fascinating. ( )
  colibri62 | Mar 20, 2013 |
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Published in Britain as "Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think about Nature"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062065459, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Weaving together natural history, botanical science and insight from his own travels, a nature writer reveals the many hidden truths behind these scourges of lawns and gardens, and explores how weeds have been portrayed from the Bible all the way to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."… (more)

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