Word of the Week (114): SCAMMONY (probability 37670), by David Sutton

SCAMMONY is a species of convolulus, a twining Mediterranean plant with arrow-shaped leaves, whose dried root yields a cathartic gum resin. Scammony should not be confused with STRAMONY, in fact it should on no account be confused with stramony, a dangerous plant also known as STRAMONIUM, DATURA or thorn apple, that yields a powerful narcotic poison, DATURINE being another word for ATROPIN, ATROPINE or ATROPIA, the alkaloid found in deadly nightshade.

But returning to SCAMMONY, which even has its own adjective, SCAMMONIATE, other convolvulaceous words in the Scrabble lexicon are BELLBIND, BEARBINE, WITHWIND and WITHYWIND, all old names for hedge or field bindweed, the former having large trumpet-shaped white flowers, the latter similar but smaller flowers usually flushed with pink. The WITH- or WITHY- part of WITHWIND and WITHYWIND relates to WITHY, which can mean a willow tree, especially the osier willow, or any flexible twig. As usual, Tolkien knew what he was doing when he named one of the rivers in the Shire the Withywindle.


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