ForeWord Review's 2005 Popular Culture Book of the Year
From the innocuous morning glory to the British-supplied deadly smallpox that purposely decimated Native American tribes, nearly every plant, animal, fish, bird, insect, and weed that is either taken for granted or cursed as a nuisance has an intriguing story to tell. . . . How such interlopers got here, and the ways in which both they and society have adapted to their presence, is provocatively and entertainingly revealed in Leland's engrossing look at the backstory behind the more notorious as well as the most mundane flora and fauna one can encounter.
Leland is a lively writer and has amassed a mountain of research, pulling in everything from the Thugs of India (in a discussion of jimsonweed) to Archy, Don Marquis's poetic cockroach. . . . The chapters on psychoactive plants and the environmental impact of Native Americans are particularly interesting.
Rich in detail and accessibly written, Leland's book will delight serious gardeners who may wonder about the origins of the plants they so carefully cultivate. Even the non-botanical reader can take pleasure in the unusual, unlikely, and downright strange ways in which so many plants and animals have been introduced to America.
Columbia (S.C.) State
Aliens in the Backyard takes readers on a fine ramble through the fact and fiction, lore and legend of introduced species, covering everything from the boll weevil to the ailanthus tree, accidental and deliberate introductions, and species that came by themselves. Leland's account contains solid biological information but also odd facts and curious consequences that should have readers turning the pages and, once they finish, looking at the plants and animals around them with a new understanding.
Thomas R. Dunlap, author of Saving America's Wildlife: Ecology and the American Mind, 1850-1990