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Book review: The Wondrous World of Weeds

Kate Wall

Kate Wall

February 22, 2017

I was delighted to read this book, as weeds are such a favourite topic of mine. This book will now spend more time in easy reach than it will on the bookshelf.

Weeds are the bane of so many gardeners. Beautiful peaceful people can get angry and even regularly use the word “hate” when it comes to weeds. Even the most environmentally friendly or health conscious of us find ourselves viciously spraying the little blighters with awful chemicals.

How is it we have developed so much animosity towards a group of plants? Probably because we have lost sight of the purpose and value of them. I teach workshops on weeds because they have so much to offer us – so much in terms of understanding our gardens and our soil, soil improvement, compost, free food and free medicine, fodder and even craft uses. Yes weeds are very wonderful and useful plants!

‘Wondrous World of Weeds’ by Pat Collins. Published by New Holland RRP $29.99


This book is very aptly titled and is jam packed with very valuable information, information which applies to almost every garden in the world!

This book features approximately one hundred different weeds. Obviously that only scratches the surfaces of problem weeds around the world but they are 100 of the most cosmopolitan weeds and weeds which gardeners everywhere will be familiar with.

There is a lot this book doesn’t cover. It does not deal with how to eradicate weeds or general weed management in a garden. It does not go into depth regarding the nutritional value and how best to prepare them for eating. It does not cover issues such as oxalic acid and nitrates. It does not go into soil improvement by weeds. But then again it is such a huge topic, that is probably too much to ask.

‘Wondrous World of Weeds’ by Pat Collins. Published by New Holland RRP $29.99


What it does it does very well. It gives very clear and valuable information on such a huge range of weeds that I defy you to not find it a useful garden companion!

This book gives a clear description of each weed, including mentioning what it may be confused with. It advises where it grows then goes on to give some basic information of uses for the weed, including if it is edible, tells us a little of the environmental conditions this weed prefers, including what soil conditions the weed can be used as an indicator of. All very useful information, however the part I found most fascinating is the medicinal use of each weed.

‘Wondrous World of Weeds’ by Pat Collins. Published by New Holland RRP $29.99


The author, Pat Collins is a herbalist, so this is really her field of expertise and she shares it in a way which is informative and enjoyable to read – and inspiring. I already use weeds regularly for medicine and food, but I am finding this book invaluable and learning a lot. For example I did not know I could use the root juice of common fishbone fern to treat coughs and colds. Next time I get a cold I will be doing some voluntary weeding of any number of gardens which are battling this weed!

Lantana also turns out to be more useful than I had imagined. Not only can it be used to treat whooping cough amongst other things, a spray made from the plant can be used to control bacterial, fungal and viral diseases of fruit trees.

Common wandering Jew can be used for epidemic flu and respiratory tract infections, or the leaves crushed and rubbed onto insect bites.

I could go on but you will simply have to buy the book for yourself!

‘Wondrous World of Weeds’ by Pat Collins. Published by New Holland RRP $29.99


The book itself is beautiful – beautifully presented with an easy to read and understand format and excellent photos to accompany every weed. This makes identification of the weeds so much easier, however I do caution, if you are planning to each weeds or use them as medicine please take care with correct identification. Poisoning is rare and unlikely, but should not be disregarded.

This book is written by an Australian and therefore is most pertinent to us here in Australia, however the global nature of weeds makes this book valuable to gardeners world wide. All the weeds mentioned here are cosmopolitan in nature and have followed humans as we travelled and colonised. Part of the reason weeds have travelled with humans is not just because they stowed away – their close association with humans is also intricately connected to their value to our predecessors as both food and medicine.

This book will help you find joy and fascination in the most unlikely plants in your garden, and turn what was once hated into something to be appreciated.

The Wondrous World of Weeds: Understanding Nature’s Little Workers
Paperback, 272 pages
New Holland RRP $29.99


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Dianne Crawford
Dianne Crawford
6 years ago

OK, I’m off to find a copy!

Lynn Burke
Lynn Burke
6 years ago

Yes, I have a copy too – it is a remarkable and incredibly useful book.