12 Dec Get to Know this Classic Holiday Plant: The Poinsettia
It’s National Poinsettia Day! We’re celebrating this wonderful day by sharing all we know about this holiday staple. The end of the year holiday season is nothing without the signature bright red Poinsettia.
The tradition of the Poinsettia being associated with Christmas started with the legend of a young, poor girl in 16th-century Mexico. Commonly known as Pepita or Maria, she could not afford a gift for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. After being inspired by an angel to gather some weeds from the side of the road to be placed on the church altar, a poinsettia grew out from the weeds soon after they had turned a crimson red color. For those who follow the Christian faith, the red color is said to be representative of the blood sacrifice of the crucifixion of Jesus, while the star –shaped leaf pattern is said to be representative of the Star of Bethlehem.
State side, the Poinsettia stems from the botanist and physician Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was also the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. He is credited with being the one who introduced the plant to the U.S. in the 1800s. As a result of this, the term Poinsettia is usually capitalized because it was named after a person. Poinsett is also the reason today is National Poinsettia Day. This day marks the anniversary of his passing in 1851.
For those of you that don’t know, the Poinsettia is a shrub or small tree and can grow from 2 ft. to 13ft. Its flowers are actually grouped together within the small yellow structures of each leaf bunch and are called cyathia. The red, showy leaves of the Poinsettia are almost always thought of as the flower of the plant. This is actually not the case. They are called the bracts (modified leaves) of the plant. The bracts require “photoperiodism”, a condition which requires they get 12 hours of darkness for at least five days in a row in order to change color.
Today, Poinsettias come in over 100 different varieties and they come in more colors than just red. They can be seen in pink, white, burgundy, speckled, and even marbled.
The Poinsettia is often thought to be poisonous, but thankfully it isn’t. Its toxicity levels are mild, and cause any real damage unless ingested in large quantities. At most you’ll experience mild gastrointestinal or skin irritations. But to stay on the safe side keep the kiddies and fur babies away from these holiday lovelies!
Well, that’s all for the Poinsettia. Hopefully this blog post has provided you some information about this beautiful, festive plant. Let the Poinsettia decorate your home and your heart this holiday season with its message of cheer and color.
By Alexa Escalona