Flora and Fauna Titles

1. The African roots of marijuana
Duvall, Chris S. Duke, 2019

In this volume, the first of its type to focus on the history of cannabis on a specific continent, Duvall (Univ. of New Mexico) broadly examines the history of cannabis, specifically as it pertains to Africa. That said, the author focuses on Africa because, he argues, the history of cannabis as a smoked drug can be traced directly back to Africa’s past. The text challenges many misconceptions about cannabis use in Africa, misconceptions largely rooted in racial stereotypes and prejudice. Duvall outlines the use of cannabis throughout Africa as a part of religious and political movements, as a coping response to oppression, and as a recreational drug.
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2. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines in Kansas
Haddock, Michael John. by Michael John Haddock and Craig C. Freeman University Press of Kansas, 2019

All plant field guides come with constraints. Among print guides, the chief limitation is scope. This field guide is no different: Haddock (Kansas State Libraries) and Freeman (McGregor Herbarium, Univ. of Kansas) include descriptions of 166 species of native or naturalized woody plants in Kansas, only about 8 percent of the flora. Notes on nearly 100 more species are included. But what the book lacks in quantity, it more than makes up in quality. The initial key to groups helps the user see the flora in general terms. Distinguishing characteristics emphasize nontechnical language. Once the user has a foot in the door, he/she can focus on an ever-increasing range of specific attributes to the species or, in a few cases, a large genus.
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3. Amphibians and reptiles of Florida
Krysko, Kenneth L. by Kenneth L. Krysko, Kevin M. Enge, and Paul E. Moler University Press of Florida, 2019

With its combination of subtropical and tropical climates and accompanying ecosystems, Florida is home to an vast array of amphibians and reptiles. This hefty tome is much more than just a field guide; it is a complete handbook covering aspects of each species’ life history. It takes a broader focus than normal regional guides, since it also includes numerous established nonnative species, including introduced species of geckos, chameleons, anoles, and pythons, among others. Only a few of these nonnative species are considered truly invasive and causers of significant harm. The authors are affiliated with the Florida Museum of Natural History and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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4. Mama’s last hug: animal emotions and what they tell us about ourselves
Waal, F. B. M. de. W. W. Norton, 2019

In this volume, eminent primatologist Frans de Waal explores the topic of emotions in nonhuman animals. As a taking off point, he discusses the implications of the “last hug” between Jan van Hooff and a dying chimpanzee matriarch, from which the book gets its title. De Waal then progresses through a discussion of various areas of comparative psychological inquiry, including laughter, empathy, shame, guilt, politics, warfare, fairness, and free will, drawing connections between humans and nonhumans and separating myth from science.
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5. The secret wisdom of nature: trees, animals, and the extraordinary balance of all living things: stories from science and observation
Wohlleben, Peter. tr. by Jane Billinghurst Greystone, 2019

Wohlleben’s new book is the final work in his “Mysteries of Nature” series, which includes the bestselling Hidden Life of Trees (2016). He has amassed admirers far beyond his native Germany, where he has worked as a professional forester. Wohlleben has an intimate knowledge of the complexity inherent to ecosystems’ functioning. This complexity stands out to him as the primary lesson of nature study and one he portrays with grace as he discusses how salmon impact tree growth, earthworms control wild boar populations, conifers make rain, the comeback of the crane harms free-range pig farmers in Spain, and other such vignettes. As a nature writer, he is congenial, humble, and mostly easy to read. His long years as a professional translate into a caution and skepticism about accepted forest management practices and conservation interventions.
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