Poinsettias, Christmas blooming masterpieces, are commonly found
in North American homes during the holiday season.
But did you
know that poinsettias
are tropical plants that originated in Central America and tropical
Mexico? They grow as unbranched trees as high as 10 feet tall.
Beloved by the Aztecs of Mexico as a symbol of purity, Joel
Robert Poinsett, first United States Ambassador to Mexico
and renowned botanist, introduced them into the United States
So how was
a tropical tree transformed into the beautiful, branched plants
we find in today's florist shops and stores? "Special
seedling cultivars were first introduced in 1923," says Ing
Ming Lee, USDA plant pathologist and member of the American Phytopathological
recently we've never known what gave poinsettias their bushy,
branched appearance. At first we thought a virus was involved,
but the latest laboratory tests confirm the dwarf branching habit
of the poinsettia is caused by a type of bacterium called a phytoplasma.
Although highly unusual, its effects are spectacular in this plant."
Here are some
additional poinsettia tips from the Plant Doctors this holiday
to keep your poinsettias in a sunny place for at least six hours
each day, but don't let them touch cold windows. A chill
will cause the poinsettia to drop it's leaves.
soil moist and water when the surface feels dry.
is over, fertilizer will help keep the poinsettia healthy and
promote new growth throughout the year.
to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. The Poisindex
Information Service says that even at high doses of ingestion,
no toxicity is indicated. However, keeping them away from pets
or small children is still a good idea, since they will cause
stomach aches if ingested.
For the holidays, red poinsettias are the most popular color, followed by white and pink.
• Poinsettia "flowers" are actually colored leaves caled bracts. The tiny yellow buds in the middle are the actual flowers.
• With a special sensitivity to carbon monoxide, poinsettias are a good early warning for the toxic gas caused by faulty furnaces or boilers. If poinsettias are brought inside the house and begin to wilt immediately, it's a good sign you should have your house tested for carbon monoxide.
• In the United States, California is the main producer of poinsettias followed by Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan.
• Today, poinsettias come in all shapes and sizes ranging from miniature to spectacularly large specimens that can be trained into trees up to 10 feet tall.
• December 12 is National Poinsettia Day which honors the man who introduced the plant to the United States in 1828, Joel