Earpedia: Plants

Amazon, through its Audible audiobook brand, is releasing free audio shows for subscribers. One of these was Zoopedia, a series looking at animals. It’s now been rebranded Earpedia, and the second series covers plants. It’s a mixed bag.

Earpedia follows the same comedy/fact genre popularised by Mark Steel, QI, The Unbelievable Truth and others. The narrator is Sue Perkins, with comedy skits interspersed around what she has said. In some ways it’s quite similar to the Mark Steel Lectures, which is no bad thing.

There are thirteen episodes of around ten to fifteen minutes long, each based on a plant. Venus Flytrap is among the picks, as you might expect, but there are some more unusual choices. Welwitschia mirabilis wouldn’t have been the first plant that came to mind if I were drawing up a list of thirteen but it’s comedy, not a botany course.

As a comedy, the episodes are uneven in quality. It’s said that when you run out of ideas, you can always try a knob joke. It was a bit disappointing that it’s where the series started with banana. It’s a pity because later episodes are much better. I thought the coconut episode did well in capturing the staggering usefulness of the plant. The facts worked with the humour instead of feeling like they were marking time to the next joke.

A few of the other episodes gave the impression the plants were chosen because they were opportunities for penis jokes. Though it works better in the Titan Arum and Squirting Cucumber episodes, possibly because the banana is a bit more of a cliche.

Would you like the series? Maybe not, but if you’re reading this, then you’re probably not in the target audience. The audience isn’t people interested in plants. It’s people who find Sue Perkins’s programmes funny. As a series about plants for people who aren’t interested in plants, it works well. Plants are portrayed in a positive light and as something that people can be interested in.

Humour is a personal taste, but even if it doesn’t work for you it might be worth listening to a couple of episodes to see how plants can be connected to popular interests. As well as coconut, there’s Quercus suber and Drakaea livida.

Given it’s free, the only real grumble I have is the need to have an Amazon account to pick it up. You can see other reviews at Goodreads.