One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: a spiny Mediterranean shrub, probably either a goat's thorn (Astragalus species) or Sarcopoterium spinosum (family Rosaceae). In later use (in form Poterium): a genus of plants of the family Rosaceae, comprising the burnets and certain related plants, including Sarcopoterium spinosum.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in John Gerard (c1545–1612), herbalist. From classical Latin *poterion, a former editorial reading (now rejected) for potireton in the manuscript (Pliny Nat. Hist 25. 123, 27. 122), for which the preferred editorial reading is now *potirion for *potirrion, name of a shrub, perhaps goat's thorn from Hellenistic Greek ποτίρριον (Dioscorides 3. 15. 1, with variant reading ποτήριον: see note below).
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