THE NATURAL HISTORY OF WILD SHRUBS AND VINES by Donald W. Stokes
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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF WILD SHRUBS AND VINES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Between the flowers and the trees, it occured to Stokes--perhaps because he is both a naturalist and a teacher-at-large--there lie, literally and figuratively, the disregarded shrubs and vines. With gentle humor, respect, and a proper regard for conservation, he gives a full description of each plant (49 genera are represented, with species, hybrids, varieties, and imported relatives) in both summer and winter; tells which parts are edible for humans, how they taste, when to gather them (and, in the case of medicines, what they were used for); and sets forth the extraordinary variety of birds, animals, and insects that shelter in, feed on, nest in, or otherwise utilize the plants. Stokes is always mindful of ecology and the workings of evolution, and his personal observations illuminate much that is obscure: why, for instance, the tricky dutchman's-pipe vine traps small insects--and then secretes nectar in order to keep them alive; why attempts were made to eradicate the barberry (it's the winter vector of a fungus that attacks grain crops); what you might find on the witch hazel in winter (a spiny gall ""like a miniature pineapple"") and in summer (""a fascinating insect gall shaped like a minute peak of meringue""); why ""ninebark is a particularly good flower for beetles""; how shadbush got its name (it blooms when shad are swimming upstream from the sea to mate); why huckleberries are superior to blueberries (""juicier and more refreshing, and I like the crunchy seeds inside""); and much, much more. Informative, of course, but also irresistibly charming.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row