Author: Nigel Chaffey

I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities. [ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]




For fans of fungi – The magic of mushrooms

The Magic of Mushrooms: Fungi in folklore, superstition and traditional medicine, Sandra Lawrence, 2022. Welbeck, in partnership with RBG Kew. How much do you know about fungi? It doesn’t really matter how much you know because I bet you’ll know an awful lot more about this mysterious kingdom after reading The Magic of Mushrooms by Sandra Lawrence [which book is here appraised]. Technical stuff A single page Introduction begins the book before 10 chapters – occupying approx. 190 pages – deliver the main text of the tome. And with such titles as: Fairy rings, The cunning woman’s stillroom, The dark...

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Greening the next generation

The Green Planet by Leisa Stewart–Sharpe and Kim Smith, 2022. Puffin Books (an imprint of the Penguin Random House group of companies). Not so long ago I appraised The Green Planet by Simon Barnes. Although I had positive things to say about that book; I had a major issue with the absence of any sources for the myriad facts it presented. That particularly critical view was prompted in part by the absence of a declared audience for the title, and in part by assessing it against the remit of the BBC, the broadcasting organisation that produced the landmark TV series...

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Plants – and plant products – promoting global trade

Spices, Scents and Silk: Catalysts of world trade, James F Hancock, 2021. CABI. I first encountered James Hancock’s work at the World History Encyclopedia site (e.g. his articles on Origins of World Agriculture, and Dynamics of the Neolithic Revolution) whilst undertaking research for another project. I was impressed by both his subject matter – plants-and-people – and writing style. The opportunity to appraise his latest book Spices, Scents and Silk was one I therefore welcomed. And I was not disappointed. Technical stuff After a listing of the book’s contents, the 1.25 pages of Preface is a most important read [and...

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You can’t beat a good book

A Cultural History of Plants* by Annette Giesecke (Anthology Editor) and David Mabberley (Anthology Editor), 2022. Bloomsbury Publishing. I like books [actually, I love them!]. Almost as much as I’m interested in practically any- and everything to do with plants. I also like sharing my enthusiasm about matters botanical with others. Which is why I enjoy reading books about plants and appraising them for the global audience of Botany One. I don’t like electronic so-called ‘books’ (or ‘ebooks’ – Emma Yates), which is why I use my most charming self to try and secure hard copies of books to review....

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Australian animals might kill you, but the plants could cure you…

Phytochemistry of Australia’s Tropical Rainforest: Medicinal potential of ancient plants by Cheryll J Williams, 2021. CSIRO Publishing/CABI. It is often remarked that Australia is one of the most venomous countries on the planet (e.g. Carly Williams; Jude Dinely). Which perception is usually down to the weird and wonderful animals that live upon that land (Meg Matthias), or in its coastal waters (Louise Gentle). Understandably, the Australians aren’t that keen on this ‘mythinformation’* being all that most people know about their homeland’s amazing wildlife (and, anyway, Mexico – apparently – has more animals that are venomous…). So, I won’t be banging...

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Novel tree hunted by fictional Victorians

The Plant Hunter* by TL Mogford, 2022. Welbeck Fiction Limited. I don’t really read novels (Amanda Prahl). It’s not that I have anything against that particular literary form as such, I just don’t have the time. And why would I with so many non-fiction plant books to read and review? But, TL Mogford’s The Plant Hunter [which novel is here appraised] was suggested to me by a representative for the book’s publisher, so I decided to give it a go. And I’m glad I did, it’s a great read! Overview In order to avoid spoiling the book, I’ve chosen to...

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