Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

REVIEW: Witch’s Forest

Sandra Lawrence, The Witch’s Forest: Trees in magic, folklore and traditional remedies, London: Welbeck, 2023.

This is one of three books, all in similar format, which the prolific author Sandra Lawrence has published in three years.  The first, The Witch’s Garden appeared in 2020 and is reviewed elsewhere on this website, the second, The Magic of Mushrooms, appeared in 2022.

The first impression one gets on reading the Forest volume is one of admiration for the author’s ability to assimilate such a wide range of material from so many sources, but after a while it becomes apparent that this  survey, which is worldwide, extends itself too far, and it would probably have been better to restrict the volume’s scope to, say, northern Europe.  As it is we get brief statements about beliefs and practices in Japan, North America, Africa, and just about everywhere in between.  And, as is usual in publications of this kind, no references are given, so it’s impossible to follow up any of these statements and learn more.

As in the case of Witch’s Garden, the title is misleading in that very little space is devoted to witches; readers seeking spells and curses will be disappointed.  Following the format of the Garden volume, Forest consists of 10 brief chapters, interspersed with monographs on individual tree species or genera, ranging from banyan, to mango, to olive.

It appears that the publishers find that the series is selling well, and encourage the author to extend her scope in the hope that the books attract buyers from around the globe, but, more worthwhile publications would result if the scope was limited, allowing more space to be devoted to the folklore and uses of fewer species.  Like the two earlier  volumes, Forest is abundantly illustrated, many of the illustrations being taken from the Library and Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

  • Upcoming Events

  • Recent Plants

  • Archives