Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Mexico: Flor de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Flower)
In Spain: Flor de Pascua (Easter Flower)
In Turkey: Atatürk (founder of Turkey's Republic)
In North America: Poinsettia (Joel Roberts Poinsett, 1st US Minister to Mexico, brought this plant to the US in 1825.
Poinsettias are THE Christmas flower. We can't imagine the season without their presence. They begin to appear in early fall on garden center benches, and spend the next couple of months growing in the warmth of the greenhouses. By Thanksgiving, they are ready to be sold, and brought into our homes to add holiday cheer. The bright reds, creamy whites, rich burgundies, and marbled varieties are hard to pass up. 
What makes these plants special, is that the 'flowers' aren't flowers. Poinsettias have a couple of kinds of leaves. Ones that stay green, are called 'dentate'. The leaves toward the top, that turn colors are called 'bracts'. These leaves are responding to long periods of darkness that we have during the late Fall and Winter months. The true flowers (cyathia) are found in the center of a leaf grouping. 
Why a Christmas flower? A Mexican legend says that in the 1500s a little girl was sad because she was too poor to offer anything as a gift for Christmas. An angel told her to gather weeds, and place them in the Church by the altar. There the plants grew their red 'blossoms'. They are also known as 'Star of Bethlehem' because the leaves make a star shape.
Oh, and if you heard that they are poisonous...you would have to eat well over 500 leaves, and that still wouldn't be enough to really cause humans any damage. There are a few people that find the white sap irritating.

Bracts of a Poinsettia plant

Cyathia (flowers) of the Poinsettia

One floret of the Cyathia

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