Cover Image: The Milkweed Lands

The Milkweed Lands

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What a delight! The Milkweed Lands is by far one of the most informative nature books I have read. It doesn't focus on just the plants and their importance, but on the ecology of everything surrounding them, their pollinators, and life cycles for both. It was easy to read, full of beneficial information, and the illustrations were stunning. This book is a wonderful resource for schools, gardeners, nature lovers, as well as at home. I would recommend this book to everyone.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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You may have heard of milkweed, but what do you really know about milkweed?
The Milkweed Lands will tell you everything you ever wanted to know and also what you didn't know you wanted to know! This is a very detailed book about a critical part of the ecosystem.
If you don't have a milkweed plant before reading this book, you are sure to be on the lookout for one afterwards.

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A beautifully illustrated comprehensive book on milkweed in North America. Information includes history, botanical information, variety of species, insects that depend on the plant, milkweed through the seasons, geography, Monarch-specific information, propagation, and much more. Lovely book on milkweed ecology that will be of interest to naturalists and environmentalists of all ages. Thank you to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the ARC. Opinions are my own.

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This book was a gentle exploration into the world of milkweed plants and the ecosystems where they are often sustained. It was written in such a way that the content was intelligent but accessible. It mixed facts with anecdotes so that the story of this plant was more than just a charted explanation of its lifecycle, but an exploration into how life around it behaves through each of the seasons. The author shows not just one life, but the community of the whole ecosystem. Just as the milkweed relies on certain conditions to live, so too other life relies on its presence. This reinforces a new idea in that this supposed weed is actually a necessary conduit of life. The whole result was an engaging and yet informative discussion of the incredible history of this little-revered plant.
In addition, it was illustrated so beautifully. Every section that began to overflow with the names of various species had a corroborating page of illustration. Providing reference images like this helped to make those sections engaging and easier to grasp or visualize.

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The first thing which struck me about the book was the concise information covering the history of Milkweed, its environmental contribution to the land, and how this is not simply about butterflies, but about the ecology on a much larger scale.

Filled with beautiful illustrations of both the plant, and the animals, the book serves as a reminder of how nature's beauty is found everywhere, and not simply in carefully curated areas.

"The Milkweed Lands" is a vital resource, not only in libraries, and schools, but also at home, for homeschoolers, nature enthusiasts, gardeners, and an everyday reminder of the impact Milkweed has in everyone's lives, both seen and unseen.

Sharing how to propagate milkweed seeds at the end, was a fitting end, and a hopeful reminder for others to look at adding the milkweed more in their flowerbeds and gardens, or simply to their yards. There is a way to help play a role in preserving the local ecology where people live, and sometimes, as the book reminds us, it can start with taking the first step.

I can't give over the beauty of the illustrations, and it captures the love the author has for this amazing plant. The illustrations capture the sheer beauty Nature has provided humanity, and the way the author writes, with a mix of scientific knowledge, and anecdotes, creates a helpful resource for those who are unfamiliar with the milkweed, and its environmental impact.

The book also serves humanity as a vital reminder, a weed isn't simply a weed. Too often it is easy to mow a lawn or look at a lot overgrown with plants as an eyesore, and the book challenges the readers, especially those in urban settings, and not as connected with nature, to relook around them, and their understanding of "what is a weed".

Also poignantly, is how the author reminds those especially living in suburbs, the "unsightly weeds" are also homes to some of nature's most vital contributors to the sustainability of the ecology. While to some those are weeds, for the Earth's smallest habitats, such as the Queen Bee, those masses of weeds, also serve as winter dens which concrete and immaculate cared yards can't easily provide.

Especially eye-opening is the chapter, "The Living Soil", and reminder dirt isn't simply dirt, or a place for grass, but a few inches within, it is home for many or as the author writes, a "terrestrial coral reef" which is often saturated in many suburbs with herbicides, and other chemicals. While butterflies and other plants are pretty, there is much more beneath the surface, and the illustrations later in the book highlighting areas such as "Deep within the Prairie Root Zone" is a sobering reminder, beneath the torn-up soil, and the eagerness in some areas to replace grass and dirt with concrete, there is a different world and habitat which has direct effects on the ecology.

"The Milkweed Lands" is a perfect balance between science, nature, ecology, botany, reference, education, and a reminder on the scale of Thoreau that there is much more to the world humanity often misses, and in the case of the milkweed, it's not simply butterflies which are affected, but an inter-connected, and dependent ecological system which is all tied together in a delicate web of life.

I want to thank Storey Publishing, Storey Publishing, LLC, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review a copy of this book.

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First off, I made a good decision to read this on my iPad. Don't even attempt to read this on anything as old as a Kindle Paperwhite. The illustrations are both beautifying and an integral part of some of the story. Not being able to see the beautiful botanic diagrams and sketches of the life cycle of the plant, the variations in seed casing, or the effect of certain parasitic wasps on the milkweed aphid would be to lose half the content. Best of all, buy the paper copy.

The books sweeps through the impact of milkweed on the environment. And the farming environment's, especially of middle America and the plains of California, on the milkweed - and the rest of its ecosystem. Anyone sensitive to the pollution and toxic chemicals sprayed over vast areas of the country should wake up to the truth of the matter. Most farmers don't care.

Milkweed is one of the survivors, thanks in part to native plant enthusiasts like the author. He works with like-minded people to cultivate and reintroduce useful native species with a long history of providing health benefits. Hedgerow Farms (near that intensive farming desert of California) is one such organisation. It sounds like an oasis of ecosystem management for healthy and balanced growth.

Since I know very little about the ecosystems of Middle America, I found all this fascinating. I loved the way the author started in the winter, when the ground is mostly snowcovered for months. Who would have thought there was so much life below the blanket? He examined the different animals of all types that depend on this plant, despite its sap being toxic to most. It makes them toxic too, which is a handy way of warning off their predators. Some information he goes into in some detail, like the fate of the milkweed aphid, which is to be eaten from within by the parasitic wasp larva. There are several of examples of this in the UK, too. The approach is much used by gardeners to control slug and snail populations (a nematode, but same result).

The author also goes into detail about the peculiarities of the milkweed pollination system, which is very similar to that of orchids.

I found it a little uneven in its approach to its subjects, though. Some seemed to be dismissed with a mere mention, often when I would have liked to have known more, especially when talking about the Upper Mississippi area. This uneveness also applies to the voice: some is authoritative (and he obviously knows his stuff) but some seems to be addressing high school students. Maybe he is unsure who exactly will read his book?

It is also a quick read. Even though I paused to study most of the illustrations, although not necessarily those with just keys, I finished it in around two hours. Did the publisher think it would not keep our attention longer? I would happily have had a more detailed approach to many other aspects he glossed over. Maybe the publisher is sensitive to the nuances of the middle America reading public. I hope it at least finds a place in their libraries.

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What an amazing book! Short in length, just 113 pages, and long in detail through its text and illustrations. Here is a perfect partnership between ecologist Eric Lee-Mäder and superb botanical illustrator Beverly Duncan. The story focuses on the plant's development and environment throughout the seasons. Its contents are: Foreword by Joan Edwards, Preface - The Milkweed Lands, 1 A Thousand Forgotten Names in the Bee-Pastures, 2 Summer Currents, 3 Autumn Rot & Parenthood, 4 How to Start Milkweed from Seed.

Nature lovers, here is a treasure!

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I knew very little about milkweed plants before reading this book, but after reading it I feel like I know so much more! It was both interesting and educational. I particularly liked the illustrations as it was nice to be able to view the different organisms being described in the book.

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The Milkweed Lands
Eric Lee- Mader
Pub Date Sept. 26, 2023
Storey Publishing
Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
This is by far the best illustrated book I have read on this topic. This is a well written- fascinating book on the complex ecosystem that is supported by the Milkweed plant, I learned a lot about the plant and its uses in the Second World War as well.
I highly recommend this book,

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This was and enjoyable, educational read, and the illustrations are beautiful. I knew nothing of milkweeds before reading this other than than its relationship with Monarch butterflies. This book laid out how important a single organism can be to an ecosystem. From mouse nests to bole roads, butterflies to many different milkweed bugs, and many more. I also never knew about oleander aphids and how they live birth already pregnant offspring??? This book also showed how human interactions can affect the environment -- from overfarming to pesticides to genetically modified organisms. All have affected the milkweed plant's survival. But there are conservationalists out there putting in the work to revitalize and regrow. This was wonderfully interesting,

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I loved this book so much! I am definitely going to buy it to put on my shelf to reread. The information is priceless and the illustrations are such beautiful artwork. This book contains everything you would like to know about milkweed as well as the ecosystems that it grows in. The information is not just about milkweed but also about the pests that affect it and the animals that spread the seeds and pollinate them. I would definitely recommend it. I would like to thank NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the opportunity to read this book for a fair and honest review.

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I’ve read a fair few nature books but I’ve never read anything quite like this. As the title proclaims, this is not about milkweed alone, but ‘milkweed lands’. The milkweed is a starting point and a point to which we keep returning while meandering past the various habitats and creatures across North America. This simple and prolific plant is used to tell a much bigger story, considering not just the natural world, but the history of America and the places of its people today, the ecological and nature writing blended with personal essays.

The writing is simple but enchanting and melodic, and I found myself rereading each paragraph several times. This book is a paean to a single plant - “humble and handsome milkweed, with its multitude of lost titles” - and, by extension, to the natural world. Lee-Mader approaches the milkweed with reverence and wonder. When discussing efforts to eradicate milkweed, he describes it as “gorgeous, minimally toxic, [and] native”. Even when he refers to milkweed’s “feral populations”, his tone is one of love.

His attitude is one of care to the flora and fauna around us, expressed to us by focusing on a single plant: when discussing weeds, he describes the word’s original meaning as “speak[ing] of meadows themselves, places of pastures and wildflowers, places of life.” We are encouraged to notice the minutiae of life around us: the milkweed itself, but also those wholly or partially dependent on it, like the monarch butterfly and the white-footed mouse, and those who live around it, including fly larvae, fungi and bacteria - “beautiful, fragile” things “mostly either ignored or maligned” who “lead interesting, secretive lives”. What others have criticised as “Tumblr blog post writing,” I found to be the writings of someone deeply entranced with and in love with the natural world, who wanted to share the simple, everyday magic he sees around him. He wonders if insects in “stationary torpor” during the winter “are dreaming of summer”. We are encouraged to change the way we see humanity’s place amongst the natural world. At times, the loosely linked short essays can seem a little disjointed, but I think this expresses the author’s excitement about milkweeds and the vast worlds they represent, their shortness encouraging the reader to research further.

The reasons behind Lee-Mader’s love of milkweed become apparent as the book progresses. Not only is he a passionate ecologist, but he grew up “as a child of poverty” in precisely the rundown American environments in which milkweed thrives, playing in the “old dumping ground used by the town road crew… a place of box elders, thistles, and common milkweed amid piles of heaped concrete slabs, jagged in shape and halfway embedded in the ground.” At other times, he played amongst the braided tributaries of the Mississippi River and “discover[ed] beautiful, otherworldly fish in the toxic waters, amid the regal glory of summer swamp milkweed… a kind of Technicolor childhood experience, a secret church of mud, butterflies, and pink flowers.” The reader gets the sense that he feels an affinity to swamp milkweed, a “muck plant”, as he writes that he, too, “lived out much of [his] childhood in mucky places”. The “gritty, perverse perseverance” the author attributes to milkweeds and other “ditch weeds” could also apply to him. He later describes the fish known as “rough fish… the equivalent of ditch weeds” as “survivors” of a hostile environment, another description which could apply to him, too.

Rather than outgrowing this environment and coming to dismiss it, however, Lee-Mader instead shares the love he learned to have for it. He tells us that “despite [milkweed’s] pedigree as ditch weeds… or odd botanical outcasts of harsh and dismal places, even the most commonplace milkweed flowers have a complexity comparable to that of rare orchids. They are among the most elaborate flowers in the plant kingdom.” Just as we shouldn’t dismiss ‘ditch weeds’, we shouldn’t dismiss the people living in these environments. Lee-Mader clearly remembers his origins and the company of the natural world he had there - “a half century on, I’ve managed to stumble with dumb luck into a better life for myself. Unfortunately, the milkweeds haven’t” - and now wants to share the beauty of these forgotten and dismissed places. As another person who grew up in poverty, this time on the other side of the Atlantic, this is something I have written about, too (https://moxymagazine.org/essay-the-old-road/). Even when we move on to better places, we still get homesick from time to time. For Lee-Mader, at least he has the company of the ubiquitous milkweed wherever he goes across America. Just as the milkweed has followed Lee-Mader throughout his life, we now follow it through this book.

The book is, of course, also gorgeously illustrated. The illustrations are not only beautiful to look at, but genuinely aid understanding of the book’s text. Just when you think it would be useful to know what something looks like, you turn the page and there it is. The section on the structure of milkweed flowers, in particular, was absolutely fascinating, and highly aided by the illustrations. My only real criticism of the book is that the placement of some of the illustrations could have been better; but perhaps this placement will make more sense in the print version of the book.

Reading this also made me realise just how different America really is, in all aspects, from the UK, despite our apparent similarities.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It is a gorgeous, loving symphony, and, when so much nature writing abounds, it is something a little different, and a little more personal.

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I found this book very interesting about a plant I've heard a lot about but didn't know anything about except Monarch Butterfly like it. This book is a beautiful book about a very overlook plant that not only helps Butterflies exist but also attract insects that are also helpful in nature. After reading this book, I came up with a thought that maybe having these types of plants would help us in our garden because the insects would be eating milkweed instead of eating plants that we see as important. It would be great, after reading this book, that people came to understand that plants like milkweeds, which they think are weeds are very beneficial plants and that by keeping them in their gardens and it will makes the ecosystems and gardens healthier.
This book is easy to read and beautifully illustrated like all books I've read from Stoney Publishing and would be a beneficial for any gardener or nature lover.

I want to thank Storey Publishing, Storey Publishing, LLC and NetGalley for an advance copy of this overlooked plant that has many beneficial benefits.

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**The Milkweed Lands** by Eric Lee-Mäder 4 stars- This was a fun and easy to read book about the ecology of milkweeds! The author is a member of the Xerces Society so there’s a notable emphasis on insects which was fascinating as I don’t know a ton about them. The book addressed things like milkweed life cycles, insects that feed on milkweed and depend on it as a larval host, diseases that impact the plants, historical ranges and uses by humans, and conservation projects that have incorporated milkweed. Lovely little book with great illustrations as well!

Review has already been posted to Goodreads.

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** Read as an Arc copy on Netgalley

I can rave about this book enough, from the simplicity without leaving out such informative information…. Then the illustrations, they were hand drawn and added special. Highly recommend this book to any plant lover who like to really know about plants more so milkweed genre.

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I was charmed by this book which takes one group of plants and explores everything about its ecosystem - habitat, uses, pollinators, and so on.

As milkweed is a plant found mainly in the Midwest, it's not one that was familiar to me (although other members of the Apocynaceae/Dogbane family, such as Vinca Minor, are common in UK gardens).

Alongside the text are beautiful illustrations - of the plants, of the fascinating monarch butterfly, which feeds on milkweed, of the stunning cobalt milkweed beetle and much more.
*
I received a copy of The Milkweed Lands from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Calling all green-thumbed book lovers! This is the perfect book to read after a day spent in the garden. The Milkweed Lands takes the reader on a fascinating journey through time simply by using a common ditch weed. I’m not an ecologist or a naturalist, just a simple homeschool mother to several young children. But recently I’ve been enjoying more hikes and geology study, so I was excited to read The Milkweed Lands.

This book contains all you wanted to know and more about milkweed, its inhabitants, its pests, its part in our ecosystem. I liked that this didn’t read like a textbook and it kept my attention the whole time I was reading. The information is abundant yet easy to digest. This is a great book for those just looking to get their feet wet in the complexities of ecosystems or would likely be a comforting read for a more seasoned naturalist.

Along with the easy readability and great information inside the book contains several beautiful illustrations. I think this book would be a great gift for a green-thumbed friend, a beloved science teacher, or a young aspiring ecologist looking to begin reading more nonfiction.

Thank you to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I found this really interesting and enjoyable to read,
It's absolutely fascinating to learn more about these kinds of things and this really shows the impact that one plant can make

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*My thanks to NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review

Rating: two stars

This book is a gorgeously illustrated book on Milkweed and its ecology. I simply cannot praise the illustrations enough, almost every other page was a delightful, engaging and accurate representation of the subject matter. The delightful watercolors reminded me of a lot of books from my childhood, and maybe that made me nostalgic (?) but I stand by my assessment. Sadly, in spite of the excellent illustrations, the text itself was lackluster and prone to unnecessary and unsupported digressions and never delved into the Milkweed, its history or ecology in depth.

This book is geared towards casual readers of ecology (such as myself), and accordingly the text was dumbed down quite a bit. However, more than one page read as a slightly glorified Instagram or Tumblr post, complete with vapid and insipid descriptions and analyses. I picked up this book expecting to learn about Milkweed and its ecology, not about the ‘plight’ and ‘malignment’ of the species. While this can be a valuable piece of information, the author never extended the discussion beyond casual emotional appeals and poorly executed argumentation. The usage of such language, while it most certainly could be justified wasn’t, and appeared as little more than surface tribute to the verbiage of virtue signaling. As an successful fusion of good writing, ecology, and environmental and social commentary, see Dr. Suzanne Simard’s excellent book Finding the Mother Tree.

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A book containing everything you have ever wanted to know about milkweeds and some things you didn’t know that you wanted to know too! Beautifully illustrated this book explores the life cycle and uses of the plant as well as the importance of the ecosystem and not destroying plants for the sake of extensive farming. While this book could have taken a sad angle at what has been lost it instead takes a hopeful one showing the versatility of this plant and that it can be possible to reverse some of the damage done. I especially liked learning about the uses of milkweed in the USA during the Second World War.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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