The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and other Botanical Atrocities
by Amy Stewart
Did you know that Abe Lincoln’s mother died from “milk sickness”? Well, I didn’t, and why milk sickness is caused by a weed is something you’ll learn if you read this delightful book by Amy Stewart. Yes, I did just describe her book about “Botanical Atrocities” as delightful. The descriptions of the annoying, toxic and often deadly plants are accompanied by interesting anecdotes that make this book fun to read. Even if you’re not knowledgeable about plants or not interested in gardening, but you do you love a good story(s), you’ll like this book.
Take, for example, (but don’t really take it or you’ll get terribly sick, or worse!) the castor bean plant. A deadly poison extracted from it was allegedly used by the KGB in the London “umbrella murder” in 1978. Stewart goes on to describe how and where the plants grow, what parts are toxic and why castor oil, from the same plant, is safe to use. And then there’s Freud, who’s entire outlook on life was changed by the coca plant, or more accurately, the extract from it called cocaine. To quote him, “…I have felt wonderful, as though there had never been anything wrong at all.” This he attributed to a plant that Stewart describes as being able to inspire humans to go to war, both against each other and against the plant.
See what I mean? It sounds cool, doesn’t it? I bought my copy at Coastside Books in Half Moon Bay, but it’s available anywhere fine books are sold. This author has also written some other books worth reading… Google her!