Review: A Wild Plant Year

“I don’t think I have ever seen a more attractive or informative book than A Wild Plant Year…”

“This book is pure joy.”  


Thus, Meriel Thurstan begins and ends her review  of Christina Hart-Davies’ A Wild Plant Year:  The History, Folklore and Uses of Britain’s Flora.  Read the book review in its entirety:

Meriel Thurstan

A Wild Plant Year by Christina Hart-Davies

I don’t think I have ever seen a more attractive or informative book than A Wild Plant Year by SWSBA member Christina Hart-Davies. Christina spent six years researching and illustrating the history, folklore and uses of Britain’s flora, and the result is nothing short of delightful.

Reflecting the seasonal appearance of over 200 wild flowers, the book starts with the New Year and finishes with Yuletide and Christmas, every plant taking its place in its particular season. On the way we are told about special days such as Easter, Mothering Sunday, Hallowe’en and so on, and showcasing the plants with which these days are associated. Every plant is beautifully illustrated with Christina’s characteristic delicacy and detail, embellished here and there with her gentle calligraphy.

I suppose it is pretty obvious when you think about it, but so many plant names reflect their character or use: Greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) was said to cure a stitch, that sudden pain in the side; Pignut (Conopodium majus) is adored by pigs and wild boar; Bee orchid (Ophrys aperifera) really looks as though it is hosting a visiting bee; Milkwort (Polygala spp) was supposed to increase the flow of milk in nursing mothers; Eyebright (Euphrasia spp) brightens the eyes. Broom (Cytisus scoparius) is self-explanatory, but although you probably already knew that it was used by witches to fly, did you also know that it was protection against them? And that its bright yellow edible buds were served at the coronation banquet of James II?

Take this book with you when you walk through the countryside and you will be amazed at the number of plants that either have a history, or a medical use, or are simply edible. Our forebears may not have had antibiotics and penicillin, but they certainly knew their herbs and what had healing properties or would spice up their diet.

Or stay at home and read it, enjoy the delightful illustrations – and increase your knowledge of the history, folklore and medical and edible values of our common (and not so common) wild plants.

This book is pure joy.

Review in Palette & Petal, the quarterly magazine of the South West Society of Botanical Artists. Reprinted with permission