A review by wanderonwards
Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium, by Walter S. Judd, Graham A. Judd


I very much enjoyed reading this book - it combines two of my favorite things: Tolkien (and writing) with plant identification. The book includes sections describing the plant communities of Middle Earth (and how they relate to our world), plant terminology, a dichotomous key (which filled my plant-nerd heart with indescribable joy), and detailed descriptions of more than 140 plants, many of which are familiar to us. From a reader’s point of view, the amount of detail provided and the authors’ obvious dedication to making sure non-specialist readers could follow along was wonderful. From a scientist’s point of view (specifically, from a natural resources standpoint), each plant’s entry is more of a general overview than specific identification, but I did enjoy reading the history and etymology sections (something my college textbooks usually excluded or glossed over).

Most - but not all - plants have illustrations, but due to their style are not detailed enough for identification purposes unless you are already familiar with the species. One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is the amount of detail and cross-referencing of Tolkien’s works for each species of plant. Like other reviews on here, the largest fault I found was the consistent misspelling of “athelas” as “athelias” (I even checked my copies of The Lord of the Rings, which spell it as “athelas”). As Tom pointed out in his review, this is arguably the most important plant to the plot of The Lord of the Rings. With the amount of detail and research that was put into this book, I don’t know how this misspelling was overlooked. Granted, I have not read all of Tolkien’s works and do not know if the spelling somehow changed between The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s lesser-read works, but if it did, I feel the authors should have acknowledged why they did not choose the familiar spelling.