December Birth Flower
Also known as the Christmas flower, the poinsettias origin is legendary. It is believed it began as nothing other than a child who could not afford a gift to offer to Christ on Christmas Eve picked some weeds from the side of a road. The child was told that a humble gift, if given in love, would be acceptable in God's eyes. The weeds turned into brilliant red blooms we now know as the poinsettia, and the congregation felt they had witnessed a Christmas miracle.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular potted plants, particularly during Christmas. Poinsettia was named after the first ambassador of US to Mexico, Dr. Joel Robert Poinsett who introduced the plant to United States in 1825. Poinsettias are also known by other names such as winter rose, lobster flower, Mexican flame leaf, Noche Buena, Christmas star and Christmas flower. Peru and Chile called the poinsettia the “Crown of the Andes”. The botanical name of poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “the most beautiful Euphorbia”. The plants are native to Central America and southern Mexico.
Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae family. There are many plants in this family ooze a milky sap, and this milky sap can cause skin irritation to some people. The sap can also cause an upset stomach if consumed in large quantities. Poinsettia has bright color and mostly red. Poinsettias also bloom in lemon, cream, peach, pink colors and with gold- and white- splashed leaves.
The bright petals (which look like flowers) of poinsettias are actually the bunch of upper leaves of the plant (known as bracts). The green leaves are oval and lobed with pointed tip with prominent lighter veins. The flowers of poinsettia are small, yellow or green, and grow inconspicuously in the center of each leaf bunch. Flowers are usually red, white, pink and bi-colored. Flowers are borne at the stem tips in winter. New stems are red.
In nature, poinsettias are perenial flowering shrubs that can grow to 10 feet tall. There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available. In order to identify a fresh poinsettia, look for the one which there is no or little yellow pollen showing on the flower clusters in tthe center of the bracts. If the plants have shed their pollen, soon they will drop their colorful bracts.
Many species in the genus Euphorbia are highly toxic, poinsettias are a member of the euphorbia family and white, milky latex sap may cause eye and skin irritations in people sensitive to the sap. These plants are best classified as "possibly toxic" and not "poisonous". 80% of poinsettias are purchased by women, and 80% of people who purchase these plants are 40 or older. 74% of Americans still prefer red poinsettias, while 8% prefer white and pink for 6%.
They are sub-tropical plants and will wither if the night temperature falls below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). The day time temperatures in excess of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) shorten the lifespan of poinsettias. Poinsettias are grown as indoor plants in colder climates. As indoor plants, they need exposure to the morning sun and shade.
Poinsettias are priced according to the number of blooms, more blooms means more expensive. Poinsettias are also one of the most dificult to reflower after the initial display when purchased. The plants need a period of long uninterrupted, light-free nights for around 2 months in early spring in order to develop flowers.
Uses, Symbolism and Meanings
Poinsettias were prized by the ancient Aztecs (the Mexican Indians) as a symbol of purity. Centuries later, the early Christian of Mexico adopted the plant as their prized Christmas Eve flower. The Mexican poinsettias are usually bright red. By design or accident, poinsettias have become as much a symbol of Christmas as Chrstmas trees and mistletoe. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
The Aztecs called the poinsettia Cuetlaxochitl which means “flower with leather petals”. The bracts of the plant was used by them to make a reddish purple dye. In North America, poinsettia is the number one selling potted plant, grossing more than $250 milion sales during the 6-week period before Christmas. 90% of all poinsettias are exported from the U.S and California is the top producing state.
Poinsettia, is known for its striking red displays at Christmas time. It is often used as a floral Christmas decoration because of its festive colors. Today, in the language of flowers, this December birth flower symbolizes success and good cheer and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.
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