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Weeds in My Garden: Observations on Some Misunderstood Plants

By Charles B. Heiser

What is a weed? Definitions abound, some more clever than true. For the author, weeds are plants that grow uninvited in places disturbed by people or their animals. But although weeds may invade our fields and gardens, most are not aggressive away from disturbed areas. Some have notable virtues, whether medicinal, culinary, or even ornamental. Not intended to be a manual of weed identification — although the descriptions, drawings, and photographs will help readers name many of their newfound friends — or weed eradication, this book is for anyone interested in weeds as plants. A veritable natural history of weeds, it will encourage readers to look anew at these previously unwelcome guests.

Awards for this book: Garden Writers Association Garden Globe Award

Media reviews

"His witty comments on plants he finds endearing will keep you entertained as well as informed."

National Gardener

"Perfect for the philosophical plant-lover!"

Green Teacher

"This is a worthwhile read and an interesting take on the horticultural world we love to live in."

—George Graine, Virginia Master Gardeners Association Report

"Written in a nontechnical fashion for easy reading."

—Richard Poffenbaugh, Mansfield News Journal

"Interesting, enlightening, and a pleasure to read."

—Nan Len, HortTechnology

"A rather wry appreciation of a rogue's gallery of plants that arrive uninvited and decide to stay."

Hosta Journal

"Reading through Heiser's wonderful book on weeds brought back pleasant childhood memories."

—Barney Lipscomb, Sida, Contributions to Botany

"Weeds in My Garden is a veritable natural history of weeds."

Organic Report

"Not all plants were created equal. A new book by Charles B. Heiser of Indiana University ... examines these uninvited invaders in a new, and positive light."

Missouri Botanical Garden Bulletin

"A trove of weedy lore."

—Rich Thomas, Woodland Garden

"A good, fun read."

—Ellen Dashner, Audubon Naturalist News

"A rogue's gallery of botanical survivors ... informative and idiosyncratic."

Indiana Alumni Magazine

"A warm, delightful book."

—Patricia A. Taylor, Trenton Times

"Heiser, a noted Indiana U. botanist who studied weeds for decades, makes a case for the virtues of these maligned plants."

SciTech Book News

"Gives entertaining, insightful information about each plant."

—Carrol Krause, Hoosier Times

"Heiser shares his wealth of plant lore."

Hoosier Times

"Sheds new light and offers interesting stories about these much misunderstood plants."

—Jean Starr, Northwest Indiana Times

"Professor Heisher has been the most significant popularizer of economic and applied botany for many years. His books ... are all superb examples of accessible but authoritative writing on scientific topics. It is clear that [this book's] particular subject matter, the weeds in Heiser's research garden in Indiana, is a beloved one."


"For anyone interested in weeds as plants."


"An excellent addition to your garden shelf ... as well as fun to thumb through."

—Marilis Hornidge, Rockland Courier-Gazette

"A very good guide to the botanical ignored or disregarded, this book should be required reading for most gardeners."

—Barbara Mahany, Chicago Botanic Garden

"The world of weeds is immense ... Heiser taps into this world by studying them in his garden for decades and finding some virtues among these misunderstood plants."

Mansfield News Journal

"A fun look at 140 weeds found in IU's Botany Experimental Field, including dandelions, pokeberry and wild carrot."

Indiana University Biology Alumni Newsletter

"Heiser's gentle touch creates a delightful perspective on those maligned plants we refer to as weeds."

—Carolyn Harstad, Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society News

"His affection for self-sown flowers and trees stems from an early stint at UC Davis ... he presents 140 weeds whose beauty and utility have yet to be fully recognized."

—Marge Howard-Jones, California Garden

"Bloomington botanist Charles Heiser is a champion of weeds ... he brings a refreshing perspective to weeds, extolling their culinary, decorative and medicinal values."

"Directions in Sound", WIFU FM

"Be ready for some fascinating weedy tales ... Witty."

American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter

"Those who are interested in herbal medicine will have a field day with this book, and those who are interested in why certain weeds have their name will be enlightened."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"Not your typical weed identification manual."

—Pauline Poparad, Chesterton Tribune

"This is a book that will delight anyone in love with plants and growing things."

—Marianne Binetti, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Written with wit as well as scientific authority."

—Rich Gotshall, Indianapolis Star

"In a witty, conversational tone, [the author] challenges preconceptions of weeds as valueless plants, and explains their virtues."

Hoosier Times

"A splendid addition to the subject of weeds ... A fine choice to have beside your favorite chaiir for pick-up reading. Rely upon this author's words to help you understand the weeds you'll find this spring."

—A. Carman Clark, Camden Herald

About the author

Charles B. Heiser

Charles B. Heiser is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Botany at Indiana University, Bloomington. Since 1947 he has observed the weeds in "his garden," the Botany Experimental Field at the university, about which he feels rather possessive because he has grown plants there longer than anyone. His studies of sunflowers led to his interest in natural hybridization, domesticated plants, and weeds. He has served as president of the Botanical Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society for Economic Botany, and American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also the author of Nightshades, The Sunflower, The Gourd Book, Of Plants and People, and Seed to Civilization.

Read more about Charles B. Heiser

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