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Poinsettias are the Christmas season flower, but where did they come from? Here are some interesting tidbits for conversation starters in December.
The genus name "Euphorbia" comes from Euphorbus, the Greek physician to King Juba ll (50 B.C. to A.D. 19) of Numidia (present-day Algeria). King Juba ll was the first person to find a succulent-type Euphorbia. "Pulcherrima" means "very handsome." The common name "poinsettia" is in honor of Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plants into the United States in 1825. Ambassador Poinsett established the plants in his own greenhouse and then shared them with various botanical gardens and fellow horticulturists.
Poinsettias are members of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, a large family that includes such plants as crown-of-thorns, castor bean, para rubber tree and croton.
Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where they grow as large shrubs to heights more than 10 feet.
Poinsettias are the top-selling blooming plant in the United States, with 41.1 million pots sold in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. California is the top poinsettia-producing state.
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous; however, they can cause irritation if eaten. Also, the stems and foliage can release a milky sap (latex) when cut that can irritate skin although the problems usually last for only a few minutes.
When in the home or office you should keep plant away from direct sunlight and air vents at room temperture. Blooms need to be misted daily and placed in cooler rooms at night. Broken Blooms misted daily, re-cut stems, change water every other day should last 7-10 days in vase.
Common names for Poinsettia are Christmas star, Christmas flower, Mexican flame leaf, Mexican flame tree, Painted leaf or Lobster plant.
Cyndi Gutowski, IFD