vrijdag 25 juli 2014

Weeds and Aliens

Weeds and Aliens (1961) by Edward Salisbury (the man had more honorary titles than I have teeth) is the absolute classic book that pioneered the modern study and appreciation of wild plants in a globalized, man-made environment. I have not completely read it but you only need to read 10 pages to understand that this book is fundamental to a way of looking at plants (and the world) that is still edgy. Everything Richard Mabey has ever written is a mere footnote to this book. Peter del Tredici, Emma Marris and the entire novel ecosystems/anthropocene line of thinking should cite Salisbury's book out of habit.

Weeds and Aliens was published as part the same New Naturalist series that included the Fitter book on the Natural History of London. Where biology has now moved into the ivory tower of DNA-sequencing this is still old school and everything Salisbury did every plant spotter or gardener can do. It is experimental science with everyday materials. He collects data on seeds, soil and distribution but Salisbury does it with an intelligence and memory that few people can match. It is a tough book to read, its scope is encyclopedic but not with a desire to collect all the knowledge of the world but out of desire to share with his readers the excitement of the versatility of plants and the geographic narrative of a industrializing world they tell. It is old fashioned and refreshing at the same time to meet a writer who does assume his readers to be idiots and expect them to want to know everything to the last detail. How else can he excite if the facts themselves are left out? 

Weeds and Aliens is a book for nerds. Maps, lists, raw data. drown in it and be happy.

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