Plants Go to War: A Botanical History of World War II

Plants Go to War: A Botanical History of World War II

by Judith Sumner


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As the first botanical history of World War II, Plants Go to War examines military history from the perspective of plant science. From victory gardens to drugs, timber, rubber, and fibers, plants supplied materials with key roles in victory. Vegetables provided the wartime diet both in North America and Europe, where vitamin-rich carrots, cabbages, and potatoes nourished millions. Chicle and cacao provided the chewing gum and chocolate bars in military rations. In England and Germany, herbs replaced pharmaceutical drugs; feverbark was in demand to treat malaria, and penicillin culture used a growth medium made from corn. Rubber was needed for gas masks and barrage balloons, while cotton and hemp provided clothing, canvas, and rope. Timber was used to manufacture Mosquito bombers, and wood gasification and coal replaced petroleum in European vehicles. Lebensraum, the Nazi desire for agricultural land, drove Germans eastward; troops weaponized conifers with shell bursts that caused splintering. Ironically, the Nazis condemned non-native plants, but adopted useful Asian soybeans and Mediterranean herbs. Jungle warfare and camouflage required botanical knowledge, and survival manuals detailed edible plants on Pacific islands. Botanical gardens relocated valuable specimens to safe areas, and while remote locations provided opportunities for field botany, Trees surviving in Hiroshima and Nagasaki live as a symbol of rebirth after vast destruction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476676128
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 06/03/2019
Pages: 366
Sales rank: 396,116
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Judith Sumner is a botanist and author with particular interest in the historical uses of plants. She is a frequent lecturer for audiences of all kinds and has taught for many years at colleges and botanical gardens. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

1. Victory Gardens 5

Crops and Cultivation 7; Garden Strategies 11; Soils and Fertilizers 13; Pests and Diseases 15; Seed Catalogues, Seed Saving and Cultivars 17; Spreading the Word 19; Urban

Victories 21; Children’s Gardens 24; The Harvest 30

2. Dig for Victory 32

Garden Plans 32; Allotment Gardening 35; Carrying On 36; Cultivars and Propagation 39; Ground Work 42; Extending the Season 44; Sheltering in the Garden 45; Women’s Institutes, Children and Wartime Gardening 47; Schrebergarten 48

3. Vitamins and Food Preservation 51

Vitamin Knowledge 51; The Vitamin War 52; Keeping and Canning Food 56; The Hedgerow Harvest 62; Dehydration and Freezing 64

4. Botanical Diet and Cookery 66

Sugar 66; Coffee 69; Margarine 70; Rationing, Meals and Botanical Foods 71; Cooking for Victory 73; Legumes Replace Meat 77; Bread Strategies 80; Making Do 80; Feeding England 84; Something from Nothing 95; The German Home Front 99; Across Europe 105; The Japanese Home Front 107

5. Feeding the Military 110

Military Meals 110; Strategic Planning 112; Daily Bread 113;

Field Cookery 115; Field Rations 117; Military Chocolate

119; Operational Rations 120; Caffeine 122; Supplying the Axis 123

 6. Agriculture at War 129

Mobilizing Farms 129; Military Farms 131; Hybridization and Hybrid Vigor 133; Sugar Beets, Soybeans and Oil Crops 136; Plant Nutrients and Soil Fertility 140; Pests and Pesticides 142; Biological Warfare and the Wartime Food Supply 143; Harvesting Labor 145; Farming in England 147; The Land Army, Schools and Harvests 152; German Agriculture, Hereditary Farms and Plant Breeding 156; Farming in Japan 163

 7. Medicinal Botany 166

Essential Drugs 166; Home Front Medicine 168; Battlefront Medicine 169; Malaria and Quinine 173; Scrub Typhus 178; Botanical Antibiotics 180; Penicillin 182; Agar 185; County Herb Committees 186; German Herbalism 191

 8. Fibers 196

Cotton 197; Bast Fibers 201; Milkweed 206; Silk 208; Manage, Make Do, Mend and Survive 209; Fungi and Fibers 211; Fiber Currency 213

 9. Forestry, Timber and Wood 215

Forests and Timber 216; Wood Production 217; Military Forestry 219; Timber in England 220; Combat 223;

Hedgerows 229; Construction, Boats, Airplanes and

Plywood 233; Paper, Books and Balloons 240; Cork 247;

Coal and Charcoal 248; Forestry, Forests and the Third

Reich 251; The Homefront 253; History in Timber 255

10. Oils, Resins and Rubber 257

Botanical Oils and Resins 257; Latex, Rubber and Rationing 260; Rubber Plants 263; German Strategies 266; Military Rubber 267; Gas Masks 269; Barrage Balloons 271; Synthetic Rubber 273

11. Survival 275

Preparation 275; Deception and Camouflage 278; Survival Manuals 287; Deprivation, Starvation and Epigenetics 293; Subsistence Gardens 300; Regeneration 302

12. Botanical Gardens, Herbaria and Plant Science in Wartime 308

Practical Knowledge 308; Collections 310; Occupation 313; Field Botany 314; Germany and Native Plants 317; Homefront Horticulture 322; Rebirth 323

Chapter Notes 325

Bibliography 339

Index 351

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