IntroductionAlthough best known as a Christmas or holiday plant, the Poinsettia is actually a tropical rainforest plant that only grows in the wild in Central America and southern Mexico where the climate is very hot. When in their natural environment, these interesting plants can grow up to 15 feet tall. With over 100 varieties, what many call the flowers of the Poinsettia are found in red, pink, white, burgundy, and a mix of those colors. The reason why many people think the colorful part is the flower is because it does resemble one but in fact it is actually a leaf. The true flower is found in the center of the leaves. Luckily this species of plant is not poisonous and poses no real threat to animals or kids. However, depending on how much of the plant is ingested, it may cause a stomachache or vomiting.
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Interesting Poinsettia Facts
- Not only did Joel Robert Poinsett, the man that brought the plant to the United States from Mexico in the 1820's, have a plant named after him but there is also a Poinsettia Day in his honor, which is December 12th.
- In the United States, the preferred color of Poinsettias is red but in other parts of the world pink and white are favored.
- The Poinsettia is the most commonly purchased flowering potted plant in the United States and 80 percent of plants purchased are by women.
- Although the Poinsettia is now produced in all 50 states of the U.S., California produces the majority of the plants.
- To the Aztec Indians, the Poinsettia represented a symbol of purity and they called them "Cuetlaxochitl".
- Because of the brilliant red coloring in the bracts of the Poinsettia, it is also sometimes referred to as the flame-leaf flower and the lobster flower.
- Throughout history the Poinsettia has been used for more than just its beauty. The Aztecs used the latex to help reduce fevers and the bracts to make red dye.
Poinsettia Anatomy Facts
- The cyathia, or flower of the Poinsettia has yellow petals and is found in the center of the bracts. When it releases pollen, the leaves and the bracts fall from the plant.
- The Poinsettia is from the Euphorbiaceae family which are known to produce a milky, white sap. Because the sap contains latex, people with a latex allergy may experience slight reactions after handling or ingesting the leaves of the plant.
- This plant can grow to be very tall in the tropical rainforest but through cultivation, horticulturists have been able to grow them smaller so they can easily be potted.
- Once considered a weed, the beautiful Poinsettia is a tropical perennial and its flowers return year after year.
- Poinsettias require 12 hours of darkness for a minimum of five days in a row in order for the bracts to change color. This response to the amount of light is called photoperiodism.
- Once the bracts have reached full color the more sunlight they get the brighter and more vibrant the colors will be.