When the New York Times asked novelist Paul Auster What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of? his answer was indeed a book most people haven’t heard of:

Weeds of the West,” a 628-page, profusely illustrated handbook written by a team of 40 weed specialists and published by the Western Society of Weed Science. The color photographs are splendid to look at, but what I love most about the book are the names of the wildflowers themselves….There are hundreds of them, and the pure pleasure of reading those words out loud to myself never fails to lift my mood.

The poetry of the American earth.

Bur chervil.

Spreading dogbane.

Skeletonleaf bursage.

Nodding beggarticks.

Bristly hawksbeard.

Tansy ragwort.

Blessed milkthistle.

Poverty sumpweed.

Prostrate spurge.

Everlasting peavine.

Panicle willowweed.

Ripgut brome.


Say them out loud and you are awash in it: The poetry of the American earth!


Diane Cook and Len Jensel for National Geographic
Diane Cook and Len Jensel for National Geographic

Our favorite images of weed poetry are these tumbleweeds captured by National Geographic.

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6 replies on “Rise with Poetry of the American Earth (Paul Auster)

  1. Oh, how amazing someone else reads Weeds of the West! Those are fearsome, magnificent tumbleweeds! Look like kochia.

  2. They could totally be character names from Harry Potter, heh.

  3. That’s one of the best things about learning about weeds, wildflowers, scanning through lists of invasive plants. English literature extends into common names for our flora and fauna. Patreon.com/Manuma

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