Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780232737 Published May 2014 For sale in North and South America only
An e-book edition will be published.


Stephen Harris


Stephen Harris

Distributed for Reaktion Books

224 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2014
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780232737 Published May 2014 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $27.00 ISBN: 9781780233130 Published April 2014
Most people have memories of playing on well-manicured lawns or running across the flat green surface of a local park, but we often don’t think of grasses as something we consume. Indeed, grasses include four species—wheat, rice, maize, and sugar—that provide sixty percent of human calorie intake, and we become more and more dependent on these as the world’s population increases. In this book, Stephen Harris explains the history of our relationship with these vital plants from the end of the last Ice Age to the present day.
Combining biology, sociology, and cultural history, Grasses explores how these staple crops bear the mark of human influence more visibly than any other plant and how we, in turn, are motivated to protect green space such as public parks. Harris describes this symbiotic connection against the background of climate change, contending that humans must find a way to balance their need for grass as food, as living space, and potentially even as fuel. Providing an impressive exploration of the profound impact these plants have on our survival and our pleasure, this well-illustrated book is a must have for gardeners, foodies, and environmentalists.

1. Dominating the Planet

2. Roaming the World

3. Disguising Grasses

4. Civilizing Humans

5. Confusing Botanists

6. Feeding Humans

7. Sweetening Life

8. Protecting the Crop

9. Foraging the Fields

10. Making a Future

11. Playing the Field

12. Tramping the World

Appendix: Scientific Names


Further Reading

Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements


Review Quotes
Chicago Botanic Garden
Grasses provides the reader with scientific information about the history and development of the four species of grass: wheat, rice, maize, and sugar. There are also fascinating stories relating to their use and misuse over the centuries. With a population explosion and the problems related to climate change, it is vital that we learn from the past in order to maintain a proper balance. This book should serve as a wake-up call to those of us who may have thought of grasses as only the lovely green covering in lawns and parks.”
Garden Design Journal
“This delightful hardback, with its thick, glossy pages, beautiful binding, and thoughtful imagery, will open your eyes to the fascinating world of grasses. Reading through, you are struck by the fact that grasses seem to permeate every aspect of modern life, without us really acknowledging their presence. . . . A book full of things you never even imagined you needed to know, but which linger in the imagination long after reading.” 
Gardens Illustrated
“Those of us who despair of garden writing being reduced to picture captions or to 140-character long snippets can raise a cheer for the appearance of two new books in Reaktion Books’ Botanical series, a compelling collection that allows knowledgeable writers to explore the social and cultural impact of plants alongside their botanical and horticultural significance . . . Grasses is an absorbing description of Poaceae and other grass-like plants. . . . the books are well-produced, each illustration and photograph is carefully chosen and illuminates the text. . . . Both books are magnificent works: breathtaking in their sweep and dazzling in their research and reflection. More like this please.” 
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