Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #181

Flora Celtica by William Milliken, 2004

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2008-01-01

If I could only have one book on Scottish plants, it would be "Flora Celtica: Plants and People in Scotland." While the main title suggests a comprehensive, taxonomic review of natives, authors William Milliken and Sam Bridgewater instead use ethnobotany as their framework to categorize plants by their impact on humans.

And there is quite a range to this impact. Besides the expected foods, traditional crafts and medicines, this book both looks to the past -- recounting much folklore and ceremony -- and to the future, exploring the role of plants as we grapple with climate change, restoration and sustainability of resources.

The genius is in the presentation -- turn to any page and find fascinating biographies, historical photos and drawings, even poetry and lyrics of traditional songs, all woven around a very readable text. But this is not just about history -- the photographs (many by author Milliken) clearly illustrate the landscape and people of today.

"We no longer fumigate our houses with juniper leaves...or tie rowan twigs onto our cows' tails to ward off the fairies. But we do still...decorate our homes with holly at Christmas and plant marram grass to hold back the sea. And, while some practices are being lost, others are being acquired..." This quote from the introduction captures the spirit of this large, complex, and thoroughly engaging book.

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

Keywords: Carex, Reviews

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