The Milkweed Lands

An Epic Story of One Plant: Its Nature and Ecology

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Pub Date 26 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 26 Sep 2023
Storey Publishing, Storey Publishing, LLC

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Ecologist Eric Lee-Mäder and noted botanical artist Beverly Duncan have teamed up to create this unique exploration of the complex ecosystem that is supported by the remarkable milkweed plant, often over-looked or dismissed as a roadside weed. With stunning, up-close illustrations and engaging text, they trace every stage of the plant's changes and evolutions throughout the seasons, including germination, growth, flowering, and seed development. Simultaneously, they chronicle the lives of the many creatures whose lives are intertwined with the milkweed: monarch butterflies; soldier and queen butterflies; milkweed tussock moths; large and small milkweed bugs; milkweed weevils; bumble bees; goldfinches; and more. The delightful illustrations and illuminating text give the reader the feeling of browsing an avid naturalist's sketchbook, while also learning about different milkweed species, how to propagate milkweed in the garden, the industrial uses of milkweed, interesting milkweed relatives, and more.

Ecologist Eric Lee-Mäder and noted botanical artist Beverly Duncan have teamed up to create this unique exploration of the complex ecosystem that is supported by the remarkable milkweed plant, often...

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ISBN 9781635864366
PRICE $20.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 13 members

Featured Reviews

Eric Lee-Mader has written a spectacular much-needed book on milkweed and their environments and impact on biodiversity in a high-quality direct-to-point educational book on milkweed and habitat for which those plants provide. This book is in my wheelhouse for I used to be an educator about milkweed, establishing habitats, and supporting those who wanted to establish stands of milkweed or create meadow or habitat for pollinators. What I really like about Eric's book how comprehensive and detailed in pests and diseases of milkweed for it is not a plant for the faint of heart for it does have its share of, especially pests. The cover of the biodiversity of the use of milkweed in Eric's writing is perfect. Milkweed does not just benefit monarchs which Eric covers. Milkweed can also help in erosion, feed species in decline, and provide long-lasting stands of food for pollinators. The book covers it all, from seed to plant, to the biology of the plant, to how to germinate its seed and collect the seed. But what I most loved was his writing about the living milkweed plant.

The illustrator Beverly Duncan has added such an increased beauty and value to this glorious book. Often in books that are on an educational scale of a much-needed plant topic I won't be especially fond of an illustrated book and prefer photos over drawings but Beverly's art puts this book in an eye-catching category where your eye will be gravitated to the cover and remember the beautiful drawings. Just her drawing on the biology and structure of a milkweed flower is memorable alone. It evokes a feeling of a field sketchbook that one inspires to achieve but what the two have created together is simply inspirational.

As one could gather by now I adore this book, it's a great collaboration and Eric is very knowledgeable with a lot of years in the field and hands-on consulting to many habitat creations throughout the country and internationally.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Hatchette for the opportunity to read and review Eric Lee-Mader's The Milkweed Lands. We need this book in our work and it will transition to many age ranges.

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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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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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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 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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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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** 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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**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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I had heard of the milkweed plant, before I read this book, but could never find any information or pictures, to show me exactly what it looked like, and the different parts of the plant.
This beautifully illustrated book, covered all of that and more. It also described the different types of animals, and insects, that lived with the milkweed in its natural habitat. Plus many other plants that lived alongside it.
Diagrams in watercolors, accompanied the illustrations, and text, and it was very well put together.
I now find, that I know the milkweed plant more than I ever did before.
Thank you to the author, and the publisher, for allowing me to read this advanced copy.

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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 ( 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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