Word of the Week (146): MELILOT (probability 10002), by David Sutton

I was mildly shocked, when including the word in a recent quiz, to discover that at least one eminent British Scrabble player had never heard of a MELILOT, though at least where I live it is a fairly common wayside plant whose pretty yellow flowers may be found adorning banks and waste places throughout the south-east of Britain. It has an ancient lineage too, having been known to the ancient Egyptians who included it in their incantations to ward off death. The name is from the Greek, and means 'honey lotos'.

My correspondent advanced the theory that Scrabble players being on the whole a urban lot there might be a good many other of these old flower names disappearing into the pit of towny ignorance. So, score one point for each of the following plants you know by name, and ten points if you could actually identify one in the field...

Hover over the relevant black box to reveal.

GROMWELLa member of the borage family, producing small grey-white nutlets in the autumn that were once thought to contain a contraceptive substance.
COMFREYa very common plant of the waterside, once used to make poultices for fractures; sadly its old country name of KNITBONE* is not playable.
SANICLEfound especially in chalk woods. An infusion of sanicle in wine was thought to cure diarrhoea and dysentery, and assist in expelling the placenta after childbirth.
YARROWa very common weed, also known as MILFOIL from its finely divided leaves, and long believed to have healing properties.
MUGWORTa tall silvery-leaved plant of the wormwood family, once thought to keep flies away, hence its name from Old English mucgwyrt, 'midge wort'.
AGRIMONYa ubiquitous wayside plant with small yellow flowers, taking its name from a misreading of Greek ARGEMONE, a plant of the prickly poppy genus.
SALSIFYa composite plant cultivated for its edible root that is said to taste of oysters, hence its alternative name of oyster plant; its leaves can also be boiled like asparagus.
ALKANETa flower yielding a reddish dye; the name ultimately goes back to the Arabic 'al henna', the henna.
CHARLOCKa very common yellow-flowered plant of cornfields, also known as wild mustard; the name is from the Old English cerlic.
BISTORTa plant of the dock family with a twisted astringent root, also known as ADDERWORT or SNAKEWEED.


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