Observations on Some Misunderstood Plants
by Charles Heiser
This book is mostly about the virtues of weeds. I picked it up because I\’m struggling to rid my yard of weeds- I\’ve identified over fourteen of them! Our house was empty some six or eight months before we bought it, so the yard is completely overrun with undesired plants. And I want to learn more about them.
The author of Weeds in My Garden is a botany professor from Indiana University. His \”garden\” is basically a field full of weeds (over a hundred!) which were used for study- some were planted, others grew there of their own accord. The book is basically a list of all these plants by family- each with a brief description and explanation of its value to humans. Many have present or historical medicinal uses, others have attractive flowers, or are relatives of crop plants. A few are not weeds at all, but included \”for it is a most interesting plant and I wanted to write about it.\” I particularly enjoyed reading the quotes by John Gerard, an English herbalist from the 1500\’s, whose quaint spelling (from a time when there were no rules for such) takes some puzzling to understand; and the history of origins for common names of the plants (in most cases this was a brief paragraph, but for Queen Anne\’s lace he went on for two whole pages, then suggested someone write a thesis paper on it, particularly a student majoring in botany with minors in history and linguistics!)
My only complaints are that the book could be rather boring- it put me to sleep several times, and thus made a perfect read-in-bed book! and the lack of illustrations. There are many included by Gerard, but I wish there were more. Heiser explains his reason for not illustrating all the plants, but I am not a botany student and have trouble picturing them without help. All in all, quite an interesting book. I came away with a pageful of notes- mostly things like what does kudzu look like? and do I have quickweed in my yard? but also a list of \”weeds\” to consider planting next year, things like daisy, aster and jerusalem artichoke (a type of sunflower with a funny name) for their flowers and sweet yellow clover to improve the soil.
Rating: 3/5 247 pages, 2003
Peter always tells me, \”A weed is just a plant where you don\’t want it.\” Works well for a non-gardener like myself. :-)Lezlie
Ha! That\’s exactly what this author said: \”a weed is a plant out of place\”.
I like that idea–a weed is a plant out of place. I have morning glories all over my fence, and I think they are more or less a weed (well, I know they\’re invasive), but I love them because they are so darn pretty!
Huh–I guess maybe it\’s kind of like being able to understand your enemy in order to beat him–never thought about being smarter than the weed but it makes sense. And while I might pass on this book–next time we have our own yard (we\’re renting right now), I\’ll definitely have to be on the lookout for something like this.