by Bill Laws
Firefly Books, 2011
List price: $29.95
In the spirit of Wicked Plants (and this is a good thing), Bill Laws brings trivia buffs a treasure trove of quirky facts about fifty plants that made a difference in the world. It matters not whether you're a gardener or that you simply enjoy learning obscure information - this is a book for the curious sort.
There are between 250,000 and 300,000 types of flowering plants in the world, and Laws highlights 50 of them, sharing essential facts such as a description of the plant, its native range and how it has been used thoughout the years and how it has affected human life.
The book itself has a retro feel to it, with beautiful illustrations, vintage photographs, and fonts that enhance that character. An attached ribbon bookmark is a nice touch. But the best part is finding out things like this:
"Adding the female flower clusters of the Common hop (Humulus lupulus) to the brewing process turned ale into beer, and in doing so increased its shelf life."
"Cotton is a natural fabric, yet more chemicals are sprayed on cotton than on any other crop. Today, cotton accounts for less than 3% of the world's farmed land, but it consumes about a quarter of the world's pesticides."