17-32 Segment 2: The Mysterious World of Plants

The world of botany is a deep and elaborate one. Many plants that we are familiar with today have hidden uses and secrets that our ancestors knew well. Author Michael Largo has spent a great deal of time examining and studying plants to learn more about them and their uses. One plant that he finds particularly interesting is absinthe, which was vilified in history as a hallucinogen. Made out of the wormwood plant, it is very bitter and Harper’s Magazine even dubbed it “The Green Fairy” in 1879. Largo shares that absinthe was actually one of the reasons for Prohibition, because it was said to be ruining many minds. Artists who lived and worked around the turn of the century were inspired by the drink, and Van Gogh painted the famous The Starry Night while under its influence.

Another notable specimen is the Yew plant, an evergreen bush with bright red berries. The wood of the plant stem was widely-used by ancient Celts for divining rods, and William Tell used a longbow made from Yew when he shot an apple off of his son’s head in the legendary folktale. This plant is found all over the United States today, largely in residential areas, despite it having poisonous berries. Largo says that the plant, often eaten by animals, developed the poison as a defense mechanism. Other plants such as the Amazonian Water Lily and the Suchona Tree have medicinal uses that have been used for centuries, and many more can be found in Largo’s book titled The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The world’s most fascinating flora.

Guest:

  • Michael Largo, author of the book, The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The world’s most fascinating flora

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