Amy Stewart

After penning four volumes on the beauties and secrets of the plant world (see: Flower Confidential, The Earth Moved), there was only one thing left for Amy Stewart to do: Write about the dark side. Wicked Plants (Algonquin, $18.95) will send shivers through even the most enthusiastic of botanists, with its A-Z listings of plants that poison, maim, paralyze, and even kill. She tells of Nazis using aconite in bullets, doctors administering curare to immobilize patients during surgery (not knowing it didn’t relieve the pain), and certain houseplants that were the last their unwitting buyers ever purchased. The book is divided into ominous sections including “Lawn of Death,” “Deadly Dinner,” and “Weeds of Mass Destruction,” bringing a light-hearted tone to an often morbid subject. We also learn about the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother, an exotic herb Sting sought in South America, and what Stewart considers the most wicked and dangerous plant of them all: tobacco. After reading this book, you may find yourself scouring your neighborhood for signs of colchicum, lobelia, or foxglove. The neighbors might look at you funny, but you could be saving their lives. (Note: Weds. event at Third Place Books; Thurs. event at Washington Arboretum.) BRITT THORSON

Tue., June 9, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., June 10, 7 p.m.; Thu., June 11, 7 p.m., 2009

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