Jan 25, 2016

My Weeds

A Gardener's Botany
by Sara B. Stein

This wonderful book is a botanical exploration of the weeds one writer dealt with in her garden. It turned out (once again) to be much more than I expected, full of meticulous detail and scientific information on all aspects of understanding plants- weeds in particular, but many other species as well. Their relationship with insects, with soil organisms and fungi, the process of photosynthesis, their widely varying modes of reproduction, how they have managed to disperse so far and much, much more. Ordinary looking plants -dandelion, hedge rose, even pond scum (duckweed), have so much more going on than I had realized. And to make it all a great read, the author is an excellent writer as well. In one chapter she traces the geological history of her neighbor's pond back 450 million years. In another, she describes how the landscape of her town has change dramatically in just the past fifty years- reverting from cleared farmland back into wood lots. She discusses pesticide use and seed engineering, the strength and deadliness of many chemicals plants produce themselves (to use against their insect enemies). There's even some criticism of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which I was surprised to read at first but it made sense the further I went on. Stein brings the wonders of the plant world alive, all from the starting point of trying to identify the weeds in her yard, striving to understand their mechanisms in order to combat them more effectively. I particularly liked the final chapter, where the author explained her new goal to create a garden that would perpetuate itself after her, plants that would fill the landscape without much room for weeds at all, partnered in the right places to enable ready succession from neglected garden patch to wildflower-strewn meadow to brush and eventually, mature woodland once again.

Rating: 4/5      229 pages, 1988


  1. Oh this sounds good! Must look for this one at the library for sure!

  2. Hope you can find it.


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