I'm a sucker for good (or at least, fun to page through) reference books, and maybe especially for field guides. Sometimes I feel like I have field guides to every damn thing on the planet, stationary, slithering, flying, whatever. But there are always others.

I've been really pleased, for instance, that next to the microfilm reader at the VWC Library there stands an unexpectedly beautiful book--Lichens of North America. Anytime I need a break from nineteenth century shenanigans, there it is. (Sure you can view it on google books, but you don't get the full impact). To actually learn the lichens awaits a new day.

Now a new book just came out about the Weeds of the South, and it is a masterpiece. Beautiful book with excellent images.

My students (and maybe my neighbors) will find the authors' definition of the South a bit broad (it includes the Ohio River Valley quite far north) but weeds don't follow invented regional distinctions, I guess.

I was interested, but not surprised, to learn that there is a whole field called "weed science" with their own association. No I haven't joined. Yet.

If you spend time with beekeeping old timers, as I do whenever I can, you realize that they always know exactly which plants are blooming and for how long. This goes double for the obscure weeds, which bees love and often get a lot of nectar from. I realized I needed to get much sharper on weed identification (I was already there on weed appreciation. It helps to be interested, as most of the grass on my lawn are weeds. My theory is that when mowed it becomes "grass').

Each of the weeds in this book deserves a narrative, even demands one. In this book we get only taxonomic description and sometimes a short statement describing each weed's salient characteristics. These are too brief, maybe closer to a zen koan. The narratives await their author.

There are, of course, some great names of weeds. I will toss out a few at the moment:

Apple of Peru (which we seem to have a lot of)

Pale Smartweed

Cancer-weed (which is not toxic)

Devil's guts (there are lots of devil thisthatortheother weeds, almost too easy)

Nap-at-Noon--also called "sleepy dick" and "Star-of-Bethlehem". This weed has something called "cardiotoxins" that will kill people and animals. I need to double check, but I believe half of my lawn is Nap-at-noon.

Nipplefruit Nightshade--grows in Florida and Gulf coast of Texas--"the poisonous fruit is used to kill feral dogs, rodents, and cockroaches in Central and South America"

Plant from Hell (also called Tropical Soda Apple)


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