Harper Academic


In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants

by Richard Mabey

On Sale: 06/26/2012

Price: $16.99


Enlarge Book Cover


In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants

by Richard Mabey

On Sale: 06/26/2012


Price: $16.99

About the Book

From dandelions to poison ivy, stinging nettles to crabgrass, weeds are familiar, pervasive and seemingly invincible; they ride out ice ages, natural catastrophes, global wars, and they mark our movement across continents and centuries as indelibly as languages. Yet they are often the scourge of our lawns and gardens, saboteurs of our best-laid plans, enemies of the people. Why are weeds so widely vilified, even despised? 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 through the cultural history of these vagabond plants with the verve and historical breadth of Michael Pollan. Mabey combines natural history, botanical science, and his own travels as he considers how “botanical thugs” destroy whole ecosystems, and he champions the cause of those that green over war zones and derelict cities. He explores how weeds have been portrayed from the Bible to Shakespeare, from Walden to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

“Richard Mabey is Britain’s leading natural history writer, and this is his witty and beguiling meditation on weeds and their wily ways. . . . This extraordinary book challenges notions of both culture and agriculture. 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

Critical Praise

“Fascinating. . . . [A] loving tribute to the common weed.” - Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

“Entertaining. . . . [A] sprightly journey through horticultural history.” - Wall Street Journal

“Wry and subtle. . . . Mabey argues without scolding, that at a time of great environmental change and uncertainty, weeds may soon be all we’ve got left.” - New York Times Book Review

“Smart. . . . Mabey is at his best when he takes us along on his own weedy adventures.” - Washington Post

“Like Michael Pollan in “The Botany of Desire,” Mabey shows that it is not at all clear here who is in charge, who has the moral high ground and who will survive long after the last weed has been pulled from the last over-tended suburban acre.” - Los Angeles Times

“Excellent. . . . He tracks humanity’s ongoing tussle with weeds, all in prose that delights at every turn.” - Cleveland Plain Dealer

“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.” - Dallas Morning News

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

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

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

“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.” - Barnes & Noble Review

“Weeds are often described as plants in the wrong place. In fact, explains Richard Mabey in this delightful and casually learned book, they are in precisely the right place for themselves: next to us.” - The Economist

“Weeds may seem a soft subject for a book. Not so in the hands of Richard Mabey.... Mabey’s book... suggests that weeds may, in fact, have made civilization possible—and, with climate change, may keep the planet alive.” - Financial Times

“Enlightening. . . . After reading this book, you’ll look down at the ground with more interest and appreciation—and think twice before pulling something out.” - New York Journal of Books

“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.” - BookPage, Lifestyle Column Top Pick

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

“[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.” - Washington Independent Review of Books

“Outstanding. . . . An engrossing and captivating exploration of the tenacious, often beautiful, sometimes destructive, plants we designate as weeds.” - Shelf Awareness

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

“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.’” - Kirkus Reviews

“With a mixture of dry wit and serious science, Mabey’s provocative book . . . suggests an alliance with weeds—the plants that may save us in a time of global warming.” - Booklist

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

“Witty and beguiling... 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

“Mabey’s personal, historical, and cultural viewpoint converts weeds into intellectually stunning wild flowers!” - Bill Streever, author of Cold

“Fascinating [and] richly detailed... Weeds, Mabey makes clear, are a reflection of our own culture—perhaps, our own weediness.” - Carl Zimmer, author of Evolution

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062065469
  • ISBN 10: 0062065467
  • Imprint: Ecco
  • On Sale: 06/26/2012
  • Trimsize: 5.313 in (w) x 8.000 in (h) x 0.757 in (d)
  • Pages: 336
  • List Price: $16.99
  • BISAC1 : GARDENING / General
  • BISAC2 : NATURE / Plants / General