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The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World's Most Fascinating Flora

The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World's Most Fascinating Flora

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by Michael Largo

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"A wild ride through the plant world.”—The American Gardener

An entertaining and enlightening compendium of the world's most amazing and bizarre plants, revealing their secrets, history, and lore

What happens when you give a plant a polygraph test? Can a flower really turn a human into a zombie? What gives the gingko tree its


"A wild ride through the plant world.”—The American Gardener

An entertaining and enlightening compendium of the world's most amazing and bizarre plants, revealing their secrets, history, and lore

What happens when you give a plant a polygraph test? Can a flower really turn a human into a zombie? What gives the gingko tree its stink? The Big, Bad Book of Botany holds the incredible answers to all of these questions and more. From absinthe to zubrowka (a popular ingredient in Polish vodkas), award-winning author Michael Largo takes you through the historical and agricultural evolution of hundreds of plant species, revealing astonishing facts along the way. You'll be introduced to magic mushrooms, superfoods, and toxic teas. You'll learn about plants so valuable they have started international wars, so evolved they can trick animals into helping them survive, and so deadly a single taste of one will kill you. Featuring more than one hundred and forty illustrations, this fascinating and fun A-to-Z encyclopedia for all ages will transform the way you look at the natural world.

Did you know?

  • The word hashish comes from the Arabic hashshashin, the name for a group of Persian assassins who were given the drug to calm their nerves before each assignment.
  • The fossil of the oldest-known tree to have thrived on the planet was found in New York's Catskill Mountains, and dates back to more than 360 million years ago.
  • The avocado, though delicious to humans, is toxic to most animals.
  • Sunflowers grow according to a mathematical formula known as the "golden ratio," and almost always produce exactly 55 or 144 seeds.

Featuring more than 150 photographs and illustrations, The Big, Bad Book of Botany is a fascinating, fun A-to-Z encyclopedia for all ages that will transform the way we look at the natural world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a quirky, alphabetical collection of folklore, traditional botany, growing suggestions, and modern science and nutrition, Largo (The Big Bad Book of Beasts) shares delight in the weird and wonderful corners of the plant world. Reading like Culpepper's Herbal filtered through Ripley's Believe it Or Not, each plant gets a colorful tagline (castor oil bush is "Nature's Night Light" while nettle is "The Little Warrior") and an illustration lovingly hand drawn by a member of Miami's Tropical Botanic Artists Collective. Common edibles like kiwi and oregano and garden plants like bleeding heart and rose sit alongside both well-known strange plants like corpse flower and more obscure exotics like the West African ordeal poison calabar bean. Similarly, ancient uses like that of hops in beer share space with modern benefits like the efficacy of licorice root as an antiviral. Largo's palpable enthusiasm for the ways in which humans and plants interact means every page yields something to catch the reader's interest. B&w illus. (Aug.)
“Largo has the gift of transforming a nerdy catalog of facts into an apothecary of invigorating information. His encyclopedic knowledge is never an end in itself, but it is always an engine for historical insight and reflection on human nature.”
Shelf Awareness
“Not your standard reference book. ... Written with an eye for humor and cocktail-party-friendly trivia, this botanical exploration can serve as a coffee-table piece or conversation starter.”
Wall Street Journal
“All the exuberance of a kid’s garden.”
Sacramento Bee
“[A] compendium of unusual botanical knowledge. … Perfect pre-Halloween reading for gardeners with a slightly twisted take on their flower beds.”
Miami Herald
“[A]n entertaining compendium of unusual plants. Full of history and intriguing cultural tidbits.”
Garden & Gun
“Wonderfully weird. ... Largo does an excellent job of showing both historical background and present-day uses.”
The American Gardener
“What happens when a wise-guy plant nut tosses all the amazing, and occasionally really odd, botanical lore he can think of into a well produced book? You get a wild ride through the plant world. ... A real kick to read.”
Steve Young
“Fascinating. ... A great book to have.”
“A useful, thorough A-Z study of the plant kingdom. ... Largo’s amusing anecdotes will interest even people with brown thumbs. ... Fans of Largo... are now assured that it’s a weird, wonderful world.”
“Amazingly entertaining.”
Miami New Times
“A very cool, quirky look at the plant kingdom.”
“A fascinating journey. ... If you like animals and odd stories and gooey oddities then this one is for you.”
Examiner.com on The Big
“A fascinating journey. ... If you like animals and odd stories and gooey oddities then this one is for you.”
Miami New Times on The Big
“An expert guide. ... Delves into truth and lore about our furry friends.”
Maxim on Final Exits
“Amazingly entertaining.”
Dr. Ellen Prager
“A literary walk through an amazing botanical garden. ... Full of fun facts and surprising legends, the book is a great read for both plant-lovers and novices alike. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot - broccoli will never look the same!”
Dr. F.G. (Eric) Hochberg
“A fascinating summary of some of the most famous and important plants grown around the world.”
Kirkus Reviews
Largo (The Big, Bad Book of Beasts: The World's Most Curious Creatures, 2013, etc.) offers an alphabetical guide to botanical oddities.The author succeeds admirably in his stated intent to provide a serendipitous mix of “fascinating folklore of the past, with descriptions, life cycles, advice on cultivation, and the benefits these plants provide.” Largo begins withartemisia absinthium, or absinthe, whose sap was used as a last-ditch remedy for tapeworms by Egyptians as early as 1500 B.C. In the 19th century, valued for its hallucinogenic and supposed aphrodisiac properties, it was added to spirits and became the favored drink of artists such as Vincent van Gogh. In a later entry, the author traces knowledge of the medicinal use of aloe vera—recognized for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties today—to an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 2000 B.C. Largo also relates how the black-eyed Susan, an American wildflower, was used by some Native Americans to treat earaches. Archaeological evidence establishes that the Chinese grew cannabis 12,000 years ago, and even the seemingly boring carrot has a fascinating history. Its name is based on its shape and is traceable to “the Indo-European rootker(horn), due to its hornlike appearance.” The carrot's close relatives include coriander, fennel and parsnip, and “in ancient times, carrots were actually favored for its aromatic leaves and seeds,” not for the domesticated root we eat today. Largo has fun with garlic, the supposed “vampire killer” that was also thought to ward off bubonic plague. Near the end of the alphabet, the author informs us that the name of witch hazel—still used to soothe rashes—derives from the Old English word for pliant and bears no relation to witches. Zubrowka, an aromatic plant used to flavor Polish vodka, ends this romp through botanical lore.An entertaining, irreverent look at the ABCs of botany.
Library Journal
Largo (former editor of New York Poetry; The Big, Bad Book of Beasts) has gathered a potpourri of information on a variety of plants from absinthe to zubrowka. He includes agricultural plants, trees, spices, fungi, fossil plants, and a host of other weird and wonderful specimens. The two-page entries are arranged alphabetically by common name, and the author includes the plant's scientific name as well as numerous other common names given to it. As well as describing the plants, Largo shares any lore or myths associated with them, medicinal uses, history, hallucinogenic and/or poisonous properties, adaptations, ecology, fun facts, and uses. The text is illustrated with numerous black-and-white line drawings. Unfortunately, owing to the limited space allowed for each entry, some of the summaries seem to end rather abruptly. Also, in a few places, Largo states the plant has "chosen" its adaptations to its environment. VERDICT Despite minor problems, this gracefully written book will appeal to general readers interested in botany, who will enjoy browsing information on a wide variety of strange and/or useful plants.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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6.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Largo is the author of The Big, Bad Book of Beasts; God's Lunatics; Genius and Heroin; and the Bram Stoker Award-winning Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die, as well as three novels. He and his family live in Florida with their dog, two turtles, a parrot, two canaries, and a tank of fish.

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The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World's Most Fascinating Flora 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TheOnionFlower More than 1 year ago
The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World’s Most Fascinating Flora By Michael Largo Avon Press Publication Date August 2014 Michael Largo covers the alphabet with an A to Z of some amazing plants found throughout the world. I wouldn’t describe many of them as ‘bad’ mind you, but definitely interesting. The story of each plant is told with small snippets of history, science and mythology woven together and the lovely illustrations add to the narrative. Although written for the average person he has clearly done a good job on his research as he surreptitiously teaches you botanical terms. He describes some weird and wonderful plants you have probably never heard of as well as some of the most common things in all our backyards. He even touches on some prehistoric plants that once existed but are no more. The term ‘botany’ is losing favour nowadays, often being replaced by the less intriguing ‘plant science’. It’s pleasing to me to see the word botany in large letters on a book meant for popular usage. This book is straightforward, fun and hopefully will draw more young readers into the captivating world of plants. Overall an enjoyable read for geeks like me who find plants endlessly fascinating and a quick read for those who want to skip ahead to a particular plant