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    Primroses and primulas aplenty

    Primrose by Elizabeth Lawson, 2019. Reaktion Books Ltd. To the uninitiated, it may seem rather improbable that anybody can write 288 pages about the primrose. After all, whilst it may be understood that primrose is a corruption of the Latin phrase prima rosa, the first flower of spring, how much more could possibly be said […] More

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    Bigging-up Bill’s botany

    Mr Guilfoyle’s Shakespearian Botany, Edited by Diana E Hill and Edmée Cudmore, 2018. The Miegunyah Press. It is acknowledged that English wordsmith William Shakespeare (Bill…) was well-versed in matters botanical. Quite how numerous and widespread are references to plants in the works attributed to the British ‘Bard’ is demonstrated by William Guilfoyle who devoted some […] More

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    Roses (hip-hip hooray!)

    Rose by Catherine Horwood 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Apparently, the rose is the world’s favourite flower. It’s not mine. I therefore seem to find myself at odds with the rest of humanity in countries such as England, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Slovakia, the Maldives, and even the USA (since the rose […] More

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    Bring on the birch!

    Birch by Anna Lewington 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. “Miserable, naked, hungry”. These three little words are used by the Phytophactor (the ‘nom de blog’ of Illinois State University Professor of Botany Joseph Armstrong) to begin his economic botany classes. Why? That triplet summarises three of the most essential, basic and fundamental services that plants provide […] More

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    We want yew!

    The immortal yew by Tony Hall, 2018. Kew Publishing. Is the yew actually immortal? Certainly, trees can live for many thousands of years – e.g. 4,765 years in the case of another gymnosperm Pinus longaeva, but that’s not actually immortal. So, what is the title of Tony Hall’s book – The Immortal Yew – really […] More

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    Monstrous botanicals, the darker side of the human imagination

    Monsters Under Glass: A Cultural History of Hothouse Flowers from 1850 to the Present by Jane Desmarais 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Probably, the most obvious interaction between plants and people is the food value of the former: Plants keep us alive. However, when that most basic and essential of needs is satisfied, additional plant-derived calories […] More

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    The incredible journey of etrog, a most religious fruit

    Etrog: How a Chinese fruit became a Jewish symbol by David Moster 2018. Palgrave Pivot. It is fair to say that Etrog: How a Chinese fruit became a Jewish symbol [hereafter referred to as Etrog] by Dr Rabbi David Moster is not a book I would have selected for scrutiny – unprompted. That’s not because […] More

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    A date with history: The past, present, and future of palms…

    Palm by Fred Gray 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Fred Gray’s Palm [hereafter referred to as … Palm] is the second title in Reaktion Books’ Botanical series I’ve reviewed. The first was Stephen Harris’ Sunflowers, a super little book that dealt with the huge sunflower family, the Asteraceae. Palm, in contrast, covers the much smaller palm […] More

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    80 wonderful trees and their stories

    Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori 2018. Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Stephen Barstow did it with plants, Dan Cruikshank did it with man-made ‘treasures’, and now Jonathan Drori’s done it with trees. Done what? Taken us on a world tour in his wonderful book entitled Around the World in 80 Trees [hereafter […] More

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    Taking Glycine to the max!

    The Story of Soy by Christine du Bois 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Before encountering Christine du Bois’ book, The Story of Soy, I had little real idea about what soy was. OK, as a botanist I know it was a legume, Glycine max, I’d heard of – and used, occasionally too liberally! – soy sauce, […] More

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    The cosmopolitan Compositae (or Sunflowers at large…)

    Sunflowers by Stephen Harris 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Stephen Harris’ Sunflowers isn’t about sunflowers. OK, correction, it is, but it’s not just about sunflowers. Rather, the book celebrates the sunflower family, the Asteraceae (or what those of a certain botanical background know more affectionately as the Compositae). And, why not? With approx. 32,000* species it’s […] More

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