Lives of Weeds explores the tangled history of weeds and their relationship to humans. Through eight interwoven stories, John Cardina offers a fresh perspective on how these tenacious plants came about, why they are both inevitable and essential, and how their ecological success is ensured by determined efforts to eradicate them. Linking botany, history, ecology, and evolutionary biology to the social dimensions of humanity's ancient struggle with feral flora, Cardina shows how weeds have shaped – and are shaped by – the way we live in the natural world.
Weeds and attempts to control them drove nomads toward settled communities, encouraged social stratification, caused environmental disruptions, and have motivated the development of GMO crops. They have snared us in social inequality and economic instability, infested social norms of suburbia, caused rage in the American heartland, and played a part in perpetuating pesticide use worldwide. Lives of Weeds reveals how the technologies directed against weeds underlie ethical questions about agriculture and the environment, and leaves readers with a deeper understanding of how the weeds around us are entangled in our daily choices.
John Cardina is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at Ohio State University.
"In this expert debut, [...] Cardina explores humans' 'long and ongoing relationship with weedy plants.' [...] Focused and fascinating."
– Publisher's Weekly
"[John Cardina's] penetrating analysis disentangles botany from history by offering eight interwoven stories, each focused on one weed, some familiar, others less so."
"Lives of Weeds provides a unique perspective on the history, genealogy, and human experience emerging from eight weeds that infest civilization. From despised dandelions, once valued velvetleaf, underestimated marestail and everlasting pigweeds, Dr. Cardina offers tales of their beginnings to disdain in modern times. These stories will be relished by those that truly appreciate the undesirable plant world."
– Bill Curran, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University
"A treasure. Filled with John Cardina's wry humor and intellectual curiosity, Lives of Weeds is an accessible, enjoyable book for any reader."
– Jennifer A. Hillmer, Cleveland Metroparks