Thursday 30 September 2021


 Reading (for review) a book about the Great North Wood that once stretched across south London, from Croydon to Deptford, I came across a word new to me – 'samara'. Apparently it's a botanical term for the winged seeds of such trees as maple, hornbeam, sycamore, elm and ash (ash 'keys'). It came into use in the late 16th century and derives from a dog Latin word denoting elm seed – and it sounds far too grand and resonant for the job. 'Samara' is also a given name in Hebrew, Arabic and Greek, a Russian city, and, in the Bible, a corruption of Samaria, where the Good Samaritan came from. Add an 's' and it becomes Samsara, the endless cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound (and a rather nice Guerlain fragrance). But in botany it is simply a 'dry indehiscent one-seeded fruit with a wing-like extension'. 'Indehiscent'? That means the seed remains closed at maturity, rather than splitting open. You live and learn. And forget.

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