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on 26 October 2010
Amy's definition of `wicked' is quite broad - not all of the plants she covers are poisonous. Although she starts with plants used to produce arrow poisons, she moves on to intoxicating and narcotic plants, invasive weeds and carnivorous plants, and those that enslave animals (and humans) to spread their seeds through various means.

There are fascinating facts about exotic plants you may never come into contact with, wild plants and weeds that you may run into when you're out hiking or camping, and familiar plants that live in our gardens and homes and have an unexpectedly dark side to them.

There is a tendency to think of natural plants products as safer than their synthetic replacements, but this book reminds us that nature can be nasty as well as nice and that it's important to know what you're growing and eating and particularly foraging for when you're out and about in the countryside. It's also a good reminder that a well-behaved and useful plant in one climate can become and invasive monster in another habitat, so we should be careful about the non-native plants we introduce into our gardens.

Whether you're a keen gardener or botanist, or just interested in the macabre, this is a great little volume to have lying around. Although this book is fascinating, it's a little too detailed to make it a light read. It would make a great coffee table book to dip into, or an interesting reference book for the shelf.
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This is an interesting book - no doubt about that & I'm in agreement with a lot of the other reviewers about the plus points so I'm not going to dwell on those.

What struck me though, was what it left out. Whilst there was a listing of various papers, articles & journals in the rear of the book, there was no index. Which meant in order to find a point (or plant) I'd already read or one which I wanted to read/know if the book contained, I had to refer to the more basic chapter headings at the front, with the not-always-clear titles about what the chapter was about, such as "don't look now" & "deadly dinner" to name just two.

Further, whilst I realise that this book has no colour to speak of (save for the rather attractive green hard cover, the sepia-tinged pages & the black line drawings), it would be undoubtedly challenging to identify any of the plants discussed - at least with any degree of certainty. Line drawings in other guides tend to list specific information about descriptive plant characteristics so that an accurate identification might be made.

Dipping into the book at random, I started by looking up on the Net the various plants to see them in "glorious Technicolor" as it were. The stinging tree for example "Dendrocnide moriodes" has quite a following on YouTube, but as is often the case, the facts start to merge with the myths. "Simply brushing up against the plant results in unbearable pain that may last up to a year" says Amy Stewart (the author) & yet there's a video of a chap deliberately stinging his hand & videoing the result. The consensus on the Web suggests that pain for up to 6 months or so is a more realistic outcome than the year quoted in this book & the reason I discovered, is due to the fact that the hairs which easily penetrate the skin are hollow - allowing air temperature fluctuations to cause the painful sensations (in addition to the "virulent neurotoxin" that is injected initially, that is).

So - this book isn't really for the budding botanist with more than a passing interest in the more racy (wicked?) plants - I would suggest it's more of a coffee-table tome than anything approaching an academic study.

Which in my opinion, is a shame, because I believe it could have encompassed both camps rather nicely. Whether my opinions are addressed in subsequent editions, remains to be seen.

Finally, a personal bugbear was the way little snippets of prose were copied word-for-word & placed on an otherwise blank bit of the page with a squiggly line below, as if they were supplying a unique gem of further information. Anyone reading the text clearly has to learn to ignore these parts, as they merely repeat what the reader has already read. If they had been a relevant but different comment/aspect/poem/quote etc. than that already included, perhaps quoted verbatim from some attributed source, then yes - I would both welcome & applaud their use.

Perhaps I'm being overly critical & I apologise for this. But in my defence, I bought the book, read it & have an opinion about it.

That is all this is :)
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on 1 October 2010
Entertaining, witty and informative little book, packed with useful and interesting snippets of information. The illustrations are charming and botanically precise - I do wonder how other reviewers have said that they are useless for identifying the plants concerned. True, they are not photographs and are not in colour, but nonetheless they are accurate and detailed renderings of the plants in question.

The only main quibble I have is that most of the information is, frankly, a little on the sketchy side. Just as you are starting to get interested in a particular plant, the section about it ends (each plant covers no more than three small pages). The book is also written nearly completely from a USA viewpoint, making it of little relevance to a UK reader.

Also slightly irritating for further research purposes is constantly missing information about studies which have been carried out - constant reference is made to things like "a recent study" or "an extremely influential medical journal" - no dates, titles or authors are give,which would seem to make it practically impossible to track down the source (none of these are listed in the bibliography). Even basic details such as the name of the journal (BMJ, Lancet, World Journal of Pharmacology etc) would give you a clue as to where to start looking. Therefore, its not much good as any kind of reference book, more of a "taste wetter".

In tune with American paranoia about absolutely everything, its also very, very heavy on the "dont cultivate/eat/touch/purchase/even THINK of standing near this plant" warnings which can get a little tiresome after a while. It is completely and utterly obvious that Stewart is either a reformed smoker or a non-smoker as her preaching about tobacco gets a little too impassioned.

Having said all that, I did find it interesting, very readable and a worthwhile addition to my bookshelf, as are most of the author's other books.
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on 29 December 2010
I love this book. It is for anyone interested in plants or the unusual as it has a lot of interesting facts about plants and their nastier sides which I did not know in many cases. I like the presentation and think it would make an unusual but most acceptable book for gardeners and indeed anyone who has a thirst for information of a slightly disturbing but factual nature.
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on 28 August 2011
I bought this book just to gain a little insight into the more mischievious plants after doing some related design work.. I ended up reading it from cover to cover (when I should have been drawing..oh dear)it is so addictive and well written! I love the gothic cover design and the illustrations are beautiful and chime with the general feel of the book (it reminds me of a Victorian-era garden guide written by the likes of Capability Brown). Each plant and its attendant danger to us seems very well investigated and concise without being over-long. I think it would make a great gift for green-fingered chums or family, or simply to read for our own amusement and information. Buy it!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 September 2014
I really enjoyed reading this book, which outlines in a very readable way, how plants can be killers! The lovely thing about this every easy to read book is that it is divided up into mini sections which cover one of the hideously wicked plants, this means that one can dip in and out of this book with ease.

The things I love about this book

It is unique
It is entertaining
It is easy to read
It is informative
It is great fun

Recommended for all plant lovers.
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on 28 March 2016
This was a fascinating, enjoyable but also frustrating read. Ms. Stewart writes very well, including many lively anecdotes to enhance her descriptions of the 'villains' of the plant world. Unfortunately, few of the plants were illustrated, and none in detail so it would be impossible to use this book to identify for example, the Suicide Tree. In the Kindle version only the first item in each Chapter is illustrated and then on the preceding page so the text and drawing appear to be divorced from each other. As a result I found the book disappointing,and particularly irritating to have to search the Web to find proper pictures of each and every item. I preferred her other work 'The Drunken Botanist' which is better illustrated and hence more informative to the curious reader.
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on 11 March 2013
It has the appearence of a grimmore. But have to admit that the illustrations and etchings do add something to the book. Okay again I have to say do not go around poisoning people or think that a nice boquet of poisonous plants is the way to underline a vednetta.

I did learn something from this book. Does look at plants globally and how they are used. You probably will be suspicious of potatoes, tomatoes and peppers for the rest of your life. But hey live dangerously I say.

But still a good volume. Who is if good for? The darkly disturbed and isolated. Yes buy if for the gardener in your life. Again i recommend it as a stocking filler and not a main present even in these dark ecomonic times.
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on 9 January 2015
Interesting and entertaining little book detailing useful information about known and less knon plants in a garden. Helps understand why you may sometimes feel itchy while gardening! A very useful handbook to read carefully.
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on 23 March 2013
What a gem of a find this was - another title by the same author came up on Goodreads. Searching for it on Amazon, I came across this. It is a lovely little hardback and the content is not only informative but entertaining too. I even found information on a plant I had been trying to remember the name of for years, having seen a documentary about its usage within tribes and also by Western society.

This book now just sits on the sofa with me as I like it to be within arms reach for a dip into at a moments notice. I shall be buying at least another one as a gift and I can't wait for the next, 'The Drunken Botanist' to arrive.
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