Join author and botanist Judith Sumner to discuss her latest book, Plants Go to War: A Botanical History of World War II.
Plants Go to War examines military history from a botanical perspective, and the images say it all: From victory gardens and agriculture to rubber, coal, paper, timber, drugs, and fibers, plant products supplied the wartime materials that played key roles in victory. The notion of Lebensraum, the acquisition of agricultural territory outside of Germany, began in the pre-war 1930s. Once the war began in Europe and the Pacific, military needs were vast and complex. Jungle warfare, forest survival, and camouflage techniques all required essential plant knowledge. Food to supply the troops was a particular concern, requiring that Americans and Europeans on the home front grow and consume many more plant foods. Victory gardens were planted in America and England, and many Germans turned to their Kleine Garten for food and shelter after cities were bombed.Judith Sumner is a botanist who specializes in ethnobotany, flowering plants, plant adaptations, and garden history. She has taught extensively both at the college level and at botanical gardens, including the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Garden in the Woods.