Common name: Poinsettia, Christmas Plant painted leaf, Lobster Plant, Mexican Flame Leaf, Flame-leaf flower, Crown of the Andes, Aztecs: Cuitlaxochitl, Mexico and Guatemala: La Flor de la Nochebuena (Flower of the Holy Night), Spanish: Flor de Pascua, Egypt: Bent El Consul, Japanese: Poinsechia, Shoujouboku, Danish: Julestjerne, French: Euphorbe écarlate, German: Weihnachtsstern, Malay: Dènok, Kastooba, Ratjoonan, Portuguese : Flor-de-papagaio, Folha-de-sangue, Russian: Molochai krasivyeishij, Swedish: Julstjärna, Chinese: Xing xing mu, Lao lai jiao, Thai: Cheu eun, Poh pan, Song ra-doo
Hindi: Lal pate
Tamil: Ilai paddi, Mayil kaḷḷi,
Botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)
Species: E. pulcherrima
Synonyms: Pionsettia Pulchenima
Pascuas is an erect, sparingly, and laxly branched shrub, 2 to 4 meters high. Leaves are elliptic to oblong-elliptic or the upper ones lanceolate, 10 to 18 centimeters, the lower ones entirely green, obscurely repand or slightly lobed, long-petioled, slightly hairy beneath, the upper ones, at the time of flowering, uniformly bright-red. Inflorescence is terminal. Involucres are ovoid, about 1 centimeter long, the margins toothed, each with one or two large, yellow glands. Flowers are crowded.
The bright petals of Poinsettias, which look like flowers, are actually the bunch of upper leaves of the plant, called bracts. Poinsettia flowers are small, green or yellow, and grow inconspicuously in the center of each leaf bunch. Poinsettias are sub-tropical plants and therefore wither if the night temperature falls below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The day time temperatures in excess of 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) shorten the lifespan of Poinsettias.
The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
The Poinsettia has a short, thick trunk and rough, brown bark. The branches are slender and green and spread into an open bush formation, bearing most of their leaves towards the end. New leaves are soft, bronze and downy, later becoming green and then hard and leathery, deeply scored by the veins. Each branchlet ends with a circle of bracts surrounding a small cluster of “flowers.” The bracts are about 12.5 cm. long and half that in width.
The colors of the bracts are created through “photoperiodism“, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.
In colder climates, Poinsettias are grown as indoor plants. As indoor plants, Poinsettias need exposure to the morning sun and shade during the hotter part of the day. Poinsettias are one the most difficult to reflower after the initial display when purchased. Poinsettias need a period of uninterrupted long, light-free nights for about two months in early spring in order to develop flowers.
They are found in the wild in deciduous tropical forest at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. They are also found in the interior of Mexico in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Gurerro and Oxaca Now it is found in most parts of the world, in greenhouses in the colder climes and out-of-doors in tropical and sub-tropical countries like the Indian subcontinent. It is very popular in Australia, Malta, Egypt and Turkey.
It came originally from Mexico and was named after Ambassador Poinsett of South Carolina, who brought the first plants from there in the middle of the 19th Century.
There are many varieties all with the same peculiarity — extreme degeneration of the flowers. The coloured leaves are not part of the flowers but just bracts, brightly coloured to attract insects as in the Bougainvilleas and other plants. The rounded, bud-like formations, with up-standing stamens and peculiar lateral protuberances are not flowers at all but clusters of degenerated flowers. Each “stamen” is all that exists of a male flower, and the bulky “pistil” is all there is of a whole female flower.
Some of the varieties are very far removed from our gay garden plant, being nothing but roadside weeds. Others are like miniatures with only a small area of scarlet, others have no scarlet at all but an ugly greenish-yellow instead. Horticulturists have introduced still more varieties, so now we have double forms, forms where the red is replaced by pink or yellow or white and some with variegated leaves. But any of these is an improvement on the original crimson.
Facts About Poinsettias
Poinsettias also bloom in cream, lemon, peach, pink colors and with white and gold-splashed leaves. There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.
Poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds.
Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “the most beautiful Euphorbia“.
Poinsettia was named after the former US ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel R. Poinsett who introduced the Poinsettia to the United States.
Poinsettias, at times, reach a height of sixteen feet.
Poinsettias are also known by other names such as ‘Christmas flower‘, ‘lobster flower’, and ‘Mexican flame leaf‘.
The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased in the United States and does about 50% of the world-wide sales of Poinsettias.
December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
In Mexico, the Poinsettia is displayed in celebration of the “Dia de la Virgen“, which is also coincidentally, December 12th.
The Aztecs used the Poinsettia bracts to make a reddish purple dye for fabrics, and used the sap medicinally to control fevers.
Poinsettias contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy at the retail level.
California is the top U.S. Poinsettia-producing state.
Poinsettias are the best selling potted plant in the United States and Canada.
Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic.
The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication.In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl (from cuetlatl, residue, and xochitl, flower) meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil.” Today it is known in Mexico as “Flor de Noche Buena“, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and other Central America countries it is known as “Flor de Pascua” or “Pascua” meaning “Easter flower”. In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as “Crown of the Andes“. In Turkey, it is called Atatürk’s Flower because Atatürk, the founder of the Republic, liked this flower and made a significant contribution to its cultivation for it to become widespread in Turkey. This name is given by botanists who took place in the beginning of its cultivation in Turkey.
Poinsettias & Christmas
The ancient Aztecs (the Mexican Indians) prized the Poinsettia as a symbol of purity. Centuries later, Mexico’s early Christians adopted the Poinsettia as their prized Christmas Eve flower. The Mexican Poinsettia, known as the Christmas flower in North America, is used in most Christmas decorations, owing to its bright red color and its blooming season coinciding with the Christmas holiday season.
The Mexican poinsettias are commonly bright red. For some, these star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. The Christmas Poinsettia flowers have become a symbol of Christmas and are used as festive decor.
A Mexican legend explains how Poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas. Apparently, 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. When brought into the church, the weeds bloomed into red and green flowers and the congregation felt that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle.
Triterpenes in the latex of E pulcherrima.
Bracts yield a resin, a yellow and red coloring-matter, essential oil, tartaric acid, gallic acid, gum, glucose, sucrose, starch, and salts.
Bark yields a red coloring principle; bracts yield a scarlet dye.
Leaf yields alkaloids, saponins, sulfur, fat, amilodextrin, and formic acid.
Leaves applied as poultice for erysipelas and a variety of cutaneous problems.
Latex is poisonous and causes irritation in wounds.
Infusion of flowers used as galactagogue.
Plants used as emetic and cathartic.
In Mexico, decoction of bracts taken by nursing women to increase the flow of milk, although the practice is considered dangerous by some.
Infusion of flowers prescribed as galatagogue.
Plant used as emeto-cathartic.
In Indonesia, the racunan plant (E. pulcherrima) is used as emetic, emmenagogue, and galactagogue, for treating tuberculosis, skin infections, and fractures.
Studies: Cytotoxic Testing • Antibacterial • Phytochemicals • Bactericide / Chitosan • Anticonvulsant / Antinociceptive • Antibacterial / Antinociceptive
Recent research has proved that Poinsettias are not poisonous.
Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. You might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Contact dermatitis: Reports of contact dermatitis associated with EP simulating a phototoxic reaction.
Latex is very caustic and poisonous, severely irritating to wounds, and extremely dangerous to the eyes.
A characteristic of many poisonous plants, it should be noted, is a milky-white sap which exudes from a part or all of the plant when cut. Poinsettia is no exception and one should exercise great care in handling cut branches. Both leaves and bracts droop very quickly after cutting; so if the sprays are required for indoor decoration, the cut ends should be immediately plunged into boiling water to the depth of 5 cm. This will preserve their freshness for a considerable time.
The Poinsettia requires full sun and good drainage and should be cut down to about 30cm. after flowering. This is essential if large, compact shrubs, 2.5 to 3m. high, are expected the following season. Cuttings root readily.
Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular potted plants, particularly during the Christmas season. Brightly colored and mostly red, a Poinsettia provides effective color in home decor during and after the holiday season. The newer Poinsettia cultivars are long-lasting in contrast to the cultivars that were available a few years ago. Christmas charm is what these amazing Poinsettias hold. As there are few flowers to brighten our gardens around Christmas time, the flamboyant Poinsettia, with its bright red bracts, is deservedly popular.