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10 Interesting Facts about Poinsettias

  • No flower says Christmas like the beautiful poinsettia. Learn a few facts about this traditional Christmas plant.
  • Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.
  • Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. You might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
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  • The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).
  • Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.
  • Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico.
  • In Mexico the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that will grow 10-15 feet tall.
  • There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.
  • The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased in the United States and does about 50% of the world-wide sales of Poinsettias.
  • December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
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  • What's in a Name?

      • Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.
      • In Nahuatl , the language of the Aztecs, the Poinsettia was called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl, for residue, and xochitl, for flower), meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil."
      • Today the plant is known in Mexico and Guatemala as ""La Flor de la Nochebuena" (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).
      • In Chile and Peru, the Poinsettia is called the "Crown of the Andes".
      • In Spain the Poinsettia has a different holiday attribution. It is known there as "Flor de Pascua", meaning "Easter flower".
      • Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.
      • Poinsettias received their name in the United States in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant into the country in 1828. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. He sent cuttings of the plant he had discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. The word Poinsettia is traditionally capitalized because it is named after a person.
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    Anatomy of a Poinsettia

        • The showy colored parts of Poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
        • Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves.
        • Despite rumors to the contrary, Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than a pound-and-a-quarter of Poinsettia leaves (500 to 600 leaves) to have any side effects. The most common side effects that have been reported from Poinsettia ingestions are upset stomach and vomiting. The leaves are reportedly not very tasty, so it's highly unlikely that kids or even pets would be able to eat that many! But be aware that the leaves can still be a choking hazard for children and pets.
        • In nature, Poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds.
        • Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant. They will grow outdoors in temperate coastal climates, such as Southern California beach communities. In the ground, they can reach 10 feet tall.
        • The colors of the bracts are created through "photoperiodism", meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.
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    • http://extension.illinois.edu/poinsettia/facts.cfm

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