This is a beautiful book, full of gorgeous illustrations and pictures. I started reading it, and there is a good deal of philosophy in the beginning. It starts in with plant symmetry a little later. Although it was very interesting, I got waylaid by a mathematical error. That's what I get for skipping ahead and glancing at the pictures.
You see, a couple of years ago, I was a math tutor, focused on algebra and trigonometry. When the book had a lovely illustration of the six-petaled flower fitting neatly into a circle, I was naturally drawn to it. Unfortunately, either it was poorly worded or it had an actual mathematical error. Either way, I felt I could no longer trust his math and geometry, so I lost interest in the book. This is rather sad, because I think much of it could have been beneficial.
Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart, with Etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs and Drawings by Jonathan Rosen, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009
This was an enjoyable, quick description of many dangerous plants, from poisons to skin irritation. The drawings and etchings are beautiful, printed on an old-fashioned, sepia-toned paper.
While I did not go out into the field looking for samples, I think it would be hard to identify plants using only this book, though people did it for decades, perhaps even centuries, with field guides that had only drawings and descriptions. I like the ease of looking at plants on the internet, comparing color as well as leaf shape, and finding multiple images of plants at varying stages of growth.
That said, this book had wonderful descriptions and some delightful and terrifying historical facts. I also learned that almost all my houseplants are poisonous to children and animals. If you want to have them in the same household, it's a good idea to have the poison control phone number posted in a handy place. Well, plants aside, if your children are like mine, you have it programmed into your phone on speed dial.
If I ever found myself lost in the wilderness, like most of us in modern society I would not know which plants are save and which are dangerous. I would probably die of either starvation or poisoning. Growing up, I knew that certain weeds were edible, like the lemony stems of sorrel, the dandelion greens, purslane, and a plant we called Indian lettuce. I think I could have gotten at least a few nutrients. However, I now live in an entirely different part of the country, and I have no clue. Perhaps the thing to pack in a survival guide is a book like this, as well as one about edible plants. Some are so similar it is scary. There is even a toxic mushroom that mimics the popular morel mushroom.
Well, that's all for May. I'm into June and have not yet picked up new books, but it is on Monday's to-do list.