Long time readers know that I’m a weed geek and a bug geek. I like to know what’s eating my plants–or even what’s walking around near them–and what’s coming up in the garden, or even along the roadsides (which can be a challenge at 65 mph!)
So I was delighted when the University of Chicago Press came out with Weeds of North America in paperback last year–and a hefty paperback it is at almost 700 pages (656 to be exact!).
It is head and shoulders better than my current weed book, Weeds of the Northeast, which was difficult to use if you weren’t scientific. I used to just enjoy flipping through the various weed families and I familiarized myself with the weeds so that I could pretty much find what I wanted without using the tedious charts up front to find what I needed.
In fact, one of the two star comments on Amazon about this new book gave it low marks because it didn’t show the weeds in all stages of growth or some such silliness. I can’t think of a plant book in any genre that shows plants of any sort–annuals, perennials, trees, whatever–in all stages of growth. How on earth could any book do such a thing? If one really needs such hand holding, pluck the weed and take it to a garden center or cooperative extension for ID—you have no business trying to do it yourself!
I review a lot of books and in my reviews I am careful to note when books are not for beginners. I think, perhaps, that sort of thing is the disconnect that the two star reviewer experienced when she purchased the book on Amazon. But as wonderful as Amazon is for selection, sometimes it pays to go to a bookstore to buy books! If you can’t see and touch the books you are buying, how do you know that they suit your needs? I find that this is particularly true for gardening books. I buy very few on Amazon, in fact, unless I am sure that they will suit me (I did buy this one despite that review).
This book is not perhaps for the beginning weed warrior–no real weed book is except perhaps Good Weed, Bad Weed from St. Lynn’s Press or even some of the simplified weed ID cards.
Most weed books break weeds down into their families–the rose family, the iris family and so on–and then go one to identify the “bad” actors in those families. Those unfamiliar with this approach are always shocked to see common garden plants that have “escaped” from cultivation, as we say, but we need to remember that “weeds” in one part of the country can be perfectly well-behaved plants in another (just take a look at the invasive plant lists).
Again, if you don’t know what weed “family” your weed might fall into, it could be a bit difficult to find what you’re looking for. But the photographs are stellar so that if you have a good look at your weed, it should not be difficult to find it in the book.