"Exploring the unmowed corners of the world."

Expressing a love of history and a passion for nature.

Books by Anita Sanchez

In Praise of Poison Ivy

As a science writer, I’m fascinated by plants and animals that are unloved—like dandelions, tarantulas, and what is perhaps the world’s most hated plant—poison ivy.cover--in praise of poison ivy--sanchez

Millions of people are allergic to poison ivy, which contains one of the most potent toxins on earth. But the astounding paradox is that poison ivy is a plant of immense ecological value. It’s a plant of a powerful plant with a dramatic history and an increasingly important role in the American landscape. For me, poison ivy has served as a lens through which to take a closer look at the green world, and the changes and challenges that face our planet.

Leaflets Three, Let it Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy is a children’s picture book, designed to help the youngest outdoor explorers both appreciate and avoid poison ivy.

In Praise of Poison Ivy is a nonfiction book for adults, which explores the vices and virtues of a powerful plant with a dramatic history and an increasingly important role in the American landscape.

Wild mammals from mice to moose, honeybees and butterflies, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, robins, and bluebirds all defy poison ivy’s nasty nature and feast on its leaves and fruit. Cardinals are even known to line their nests with fuzzy poison ivy rootlets.

Poison ivy and humans have long had a passionate love/hate affair. This book follows the trail of poison ivy as it encounters an engaging cast of historical characters, including explorers, scientists, entrepreneurs and royalty—who all learned about poison ivy the hard way. Despite its irritating qualities, the magnificent scarlet-and-gold autumn foliage of poison ivy has been showcased in the gardens of presidents and kings.

The book includes informational sidebars on identifying poison ivy, how to cope with that insanely itchy rash, and “green” methods of coping with the plant.


Leaflets Three, Let it Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy

A book about poison ivy? Anita Sanchez writes of the surprising virtues of the despised plant in her new children’s book, published by Boyds Mills Press.

Beautiful illustrations by Robin Brickman highlight the amazing variety of wildlife that use poison ivy for food and shelter. And no, they don’t get itchy–only humans are affected by the toxic three leaves. Bees buzz in poison ivy flowers, gathering poison ivy nectar. Cardinals use poison ivy rootlets to line their nests. Insects roll themselves up in a snug blanket of poison ivy leaves while toads hunt and spiders spin webs in the shade. And birds by the dozens come flocking to a poison ivy feast of winter berries.poison ivy

Anita’s other published books include Mr. Lincoln’s Chair: The Shakers and Their Quest for PeaceThe Invasion of Sandy Bay, and The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion.

The Unmowed Blog

The unmowed corners.

That’s where life shoves through, grows to the sun, flourishes.

I stop every time I’m in a parking lot, a schoolyard, a graveyard–anywhere–and see what plants are growing. There’s unintended beauty in the untended places. I look to see what’s pushing through the cracks in the pavement. What the mowers have missed. What the weed whackers have failed to whack.

So come on this journey with me. Examine and rejoice in that which no one else notices.

Stop by often to see what’s going on in the parking lot! Read Unmowed Blog posts here.


A published author and professional educator, Anita Sanchez has more than twenty years of experience in providing classes and hands-on, participatory programs to a wide range of audiences.

The former director of Educational Programming at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, she has presented classes in schools throughout New England and New York State, and given workshops at the American Museum of Natural History, Colonial Williamsburg, Harvard Natural History Museum, the New York State Museum, and many other libraries, bookstores, museums, and classrooms.


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Sumac: Not Poison

Sumacs don’t seem to fit in a suburban backyard—they belong on a tropical island. So flamboyant a tree should have parrots and toucans perching in it instead of chickadees.

Purple Coneflower: Pollinator Favorite

Purple coneflower is a native American plant, a blast of purple petals surrounding a spiky central cone. Echinacea comes from a Greek word meaning hedgehog.

Yellowstone Hot Springs: Extremophiles

It’s the weirdest thing I ever saw. A hole in the ground, filled with water. The most...

Asters in the Badlands

The Badlands. An incredibly arid, but weirdly beautiful landscape.  I often marvel at...

Pokeweed: Summer Giant

This gangly, strange-looking character is pokeweed. I bought it at a native plant sale a few years ago, but it never sent up more than a few floppy leaves, and I’d almost given up hope.

Poison Ivy: Even in Central Park

Poison ivy. An amazingly versatile plant, it does indeed grow just about everywhere. Beaches. Forests. Bayous. Even in Manhattan’s Central Park.

Honey Locust: Defanged

Honey locust, in Manhattan’s Central Park, has thorns. Big thorns. Not just little prickers, great huge whomping thorns, six inches long and iron hard.

Happy Fourth of July!

As John Adams put it, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

Pigeons: Two in the Bird Bath

Putting up a bird bath, and keeping it clean and full is one of the nicest things you can do for birds in summer. Pigeons take the plunge!

Down By the River

I wouldn’t trade my swimming hole (Schoharie Creek) for a thousand pools with turquoise water. I’ll take the smell of river mud over chlorine any day.

Birdsfoot Trefoil: What’s in a Name?

Birdsfoot trefoil. You probably see it on every summer’s day. It’s the froth of little yellow blossoms that line roadways and pop out of sidewalk cracks.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like, Anyway?

Poison ivy is like a chameleon, not only changing color but shifting shape. Tough to identify, it varies dramatically with each season and in each habitat.

Ferns: Can You Eat Fiddleheads?

A fiddlehead isn’t a type of fern–fiddlehead simply means a young fern. There are fiddleheads you can eat, and then there are ones you shouldn’t fiddle with.

Spring Greens

The thing about spring greens is that you have to catch them early. Before the flowers arrive. Once you see the flowers, it’s too late–all that tender sweetness is gone. Think of lettuce bolting. Once the plant flowers, the leaves change from a tasty, crunchy mouthful to a bitter pill to swallow.