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Euphorbia pulcherrima – Poinsettia – Ajaytao

Euphorbia pulcherrima - Poinsettia - Ajaytao

Euphorbia pulcherrima – Poinsettia – Ajaytao

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)
Genus: Euphorbia
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.

Euphorbia pulcherrima - Poinsettia - Ajaytao

Euphorbia pulcherrima – Poinsettia – Ajaytao

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.

Euphorbia pulcherrima - Poinsettia - Ajaytao

Euphorbia pulcherrima – Poinsettia – Ajaytao

Other Uses

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.

Medicinal Uses


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.

Ajaytao Photography



Tagetes erecta – Marigold – Ajaytao

Tagetes erecta - Marigold - Ajaytao

Tagetes erecta – Marigold – Ajaytao

Common name: Marigold, African Marigold, Aztec Marigold, Chinchilla Enana, Huacatay, Mexican Marigold, Muster John Henry, Rose d’Inde, Saffron Marigold, Souci Africain, Souci

Hindi: Genda गेंदा ,
Marathi: Jhenduphool झेंडूफूल,

Botanical name: Tagetes erecta
Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Genus: Tagetes
Species: T. erecta

Tagetes is a genus of 56 species of annual and perennial, mostly herbaceous plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae).

The name Tagetes is from the name of the Etruscan Tages.

The common name in English, “marigold”, is derived from “Mary’s gold”, a name first applied to a similar plant native to Europe, Calendula officinalis.

The most commonly cultivated varieties of Tagetes are known variously as Mexican marigolds or African marigolds (usually referring to cultivars and hybrids of Tagetes erecta, although this species is not native to Africa), or French marigolds (usually referring to hybrids and cultivars of Tagetes patula, many of which were developed in France, although the species is not native to that country). Signet marigolds are hybrids derived mostly from Tagetes tenuifolia.

Tagetes erecta - Marigold - Ajaytao

Tagetes erecta – Marigold – Ajaytao

Tagetes minuta is the source of commercial “Tagetes oil” used in industry. It is now a naturalized species in Africa, Hawaii, and Australia, and is considered an invasive species (weed) in some regions. Tagetes minuta, native to southern South America, is a tall, upright marigold plant with small flowers used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia, where it is called by the Incan term huacatay. The paste is used to make the popular potato dish called ocopa. Having both “green” and “yellow/orange” notes, the taste and odor of fresh T. minuta is like a mixture of sweet basil, tarragon, mint and citrus. It is also used as a medicinal tea in some areas., but some species have become naturalized around the world. One species, T. minuta, is considered a noxious invasive plant in some areas. They can be easily cultivated, are widely adaptable to varying soils and climatic conditions and have a good flowering duration. This bushy plant with around 20 to 30 species, have a long flowering period and the colours range from orange, yellow, gold, cream to apricot.

The species Tagetes lucida, known as pericón, is used to prepare a sweetish, anise-flavored medicinal tea in Mexico. It is also used as a culinary herb in many warm climates, as a substitute for tarragon, and offered in the nursery as “Texas tarragon” or “Mexican mint marigold“.

Depending on the species, marigold foliage has a musky, pungent scent, though some varieties have been bred to be scentless. It is said to deter some common insect pests, as well as nematodes. Tagetes species are hence often used in companion planting for tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco, and potato. Due to antibacterial thiophenes exuded by the roots, Tagetes should not be planted near any legume crop. Some of the perennial species are deer-, rabbit-, rodent- and javalina or peccary-resistant.

Tagetes erecta - Marigold - Ajaytao

Tagetes erecta – Marigold – Ajaytao

The marigold is very significant in Nepalese culture, where marigold garlands are used almost in every household, especially during the Tihar festival. It is always sold in the markets for daily worships and rituals.

The marigold was regarded as the flower of the dead in pre-Hispanic Mexico, parallel to the lily in Europe, and is still widely used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. The marigold is also widely cultivated in India and Thailand, particularly the species T. erecta, T. patula, and T. tenuifolia. Vast quantities of marigolds are used in garlands and decoration for weddings, festivals, and religious events. Marigold cultivation is extensively seen in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.

Marigolds have long had an important spiritual and religious significance for many different cultures. The Aztecs believed marigolds to have protective properties and could be of aid when foraging rivers or assist with healing after being struck by lightning. In India garlands made of Marigolds are used to honor gods in Hindu ceremonies. In Mexico Marigolds are steeped to make teas for rituals and for medicinal purposes, they are also used ornamentally on Dia de los Muertos to decorate alters created to honor past loved ones.

Marigolds are recorded as a food plant for some Lepidoptera caterpillars including the dot moth, and a nectar source for other butterflies. They are often part of butterfly gardening plantings. In the wild, many species are pollinated by beetle.

The marigold was regarded as the flower of the dead in pre-Hispanic Mexico, parallel to the lily in Europe, and is still widely used in the Day of the Dead celebrations.

In the Ukraine, chornobryvtsi (T. erecta, T. patula, and the signet marigold, T. tenuifolia) are regarded as one of the national symbols, and are often mentioned in songs, poems, and tales.

Tagetes erecta - Marigold - Ajaytao

Tagetes erecta – Marigold – Ajaytao

The vivid orange color of Marigold flowers makes them ideal for use as décor on wedding cakes and other pastries prepared for celebratory occasions. Use as garnish when plating or on serving platters. Float atop a punch bowl of red or white sangria. Their appearance will complement spring, summer and early fall preparations best. The florets of Tagetes erecta are rich in the orange-yellow carotenoid lutein and are used as a food colour (INS-number E161b) in the European Union for foods such as pasta, vegetable oil, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, baked goods, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, citrus juice and mustard. In the United States, however, the powders and extracts are only approved as colorants in poultry feed.

Medicinal Uses

Tagetes is a plant. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.

Tagetes is used for digestive tract problems including poor appetite, gas, stomach pain, colic, intestinal worms, and dysentery. It is also used for coughs, colds, mumps, fluid retention, and sore eyes; and causing sweating.

Women use tagetes to start menstruation, treat sore breasts (mastitis), and protect against miscarriage.

People sometimes apply the Leaves directly to the skin for treating sores and ulcers. The Flowers are used as a mosquito repellent. The Juice of the leaves is put on the skin for treating eczema. The Oil is put on the skin for treating wound maggots.

In foods and beverages, tagetes is used as a flavor component.

In manufacturing, the oil is used as a fragrance in perfumes. The dried, ground flowers are used as chicken feed to enhance the characteristic yellow color of chicken skin and egg yolk.

Tagetes contains ingredients that might help decrease swelling (inflammation) and spasms, calm the nerves, and reduce blood pressure.

Ajaytao Photography



Hymenocallis littoralis – Beach Spider Lily – Ajaytao

Hymenocallis littoralis - Beach Spider Lily - Ajaytao

Hymenocallis littoralis – Beach Spider Lily – Ajaytao

Common name: Spider lily, Beach spider lily

Botanical name: Hymenocallis littoralis

Family: Amaryllidaceae (Nargis family)

Genus: Hymenocallis

Species: H. littoralis

Hymenocallis littoralis or the Beach Spider Lily is a plant species of the genus Hymenocallis, of Latin America and widely cultivated and naturalized in many tropical countries. The flowers are delightfully fragrant, with up to 8 flowers blooming on each flower stalk at a time.

These types of lilies are sometimes called Beach Spider Lily. Natives to the tropics and subtropics, they like sun, surf and sand.

Hymenocallis littoralis is a bulbous perennial herb. It ranges in height from 60-70cm (36 inches). The bulb is 7-10 cm (3-4 inches) in diameter. With age, the bulb develops a neck that reaches 4-5 cm in diameter (up to 2 inches). The flowers are large, white, vanilla scented, and sessile. The sepals are adnate (attached to) the staminal cup. Each flower’s tube is 14 to 17 cm (5 to 7 inches) long or longer.

With long strappy leaves, most plants resemble agapanthus when not in flower. However the leaves are a darker green in colour and on most species, tend to be held slightly upright and in distinct ranks. This upright leaf arrangement catches and hides falling leaves making them the perfect low maintenance plant under trees with a high leaf drop.

Hymenocallis littoralis - Beach Spider Lily - Ajaytao

Hymenocallis littoralis – Beach Spider Lily – Ajaytao

Hymenocallis is a genus of some 70 species with a broad range.
Hymenocallis littoralis is native to warmer coastal regions, this includes the southern United States to the north, down through Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and into the very north of South America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Brazil. It is considered naturalized in Florida, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Guinée, Central African Republic, São Tomé & Principe, Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa), Angola, Zambia, the Chagos Islands, Mauritius, Seychelles, Ogasawara ( 小笠原群島 Bonin Islands), India, Sri Lanka, Java, the Philippines, Bismark Archipelago, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas, Society Islands, Micronesia, Hawaii, Ecuador, French Guinea and Suriname. They are so tough, undemanding and always look manicured and presentable.

Species can be divided into those that are evergreen and deciduous. The evergreen species are very widely grown in the tropics and subtropics whilst the deciduous species are much more uncommon, being mainly grown in subtropics and warm temperate areas. Many of these deciduous species were briefly included in the genus Ismene.

The exotic white flowers have extremely long, hanging petals with a central staminal cup formed from the membranes of the staminodes. The name Hymenocallis means ‘beautiful membrane’. Unlike agapanthus, they have a long flowering period and at times are so smothered in flowers you can hardly see the foliage. The biggest flush of flowers occurs at the start of the rainy season and then the flowers seem to come in flushes coinciding with very wet periods. Flowers open in the evening emitting their perfume overnight and generally last 2 to 3 days.

This may help you to remember how to take care of these beautiful lilies. Give them plenty of water throughout the growing season, add sand to the soil for fast drainage and find a spot where they’ll get several hours of bright, filtered light.

Humidity: Average room humidity

Temperature: Warm 70-85°F, 21-29°C during active growth; minimum winter temperature of 60°/16°C

Soil: 3 parts all-purpose potting mix: 1 part coarse sand

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Division of bulbs. Separate offsets from the parent bulb in spring and pot them up. Water newly potted bulbs sparingly for the first month or until you see new growth.Overwintering spider lilies indoors will protect this frost-tender plant.

To get the best from your plants, divide them every 5 to 10 years and replant in freshly dug soil enriched with compost, ground rock mineral fertiliser and composted animal manure. These plants look great ‘en masse’ so plant out large numbers for some spectacular displays. Foliar feed plants under vigorous trees.

Repot in spring when you see new growth, and only when it gets too crowded, probably every 4 years or so. This tropical lily flowers best when potbound.

Hymenocallis littoralis is often grown as an ornamental. It requires sunlight to partial shade for proper growth and blooms from mid-summer to late autumn with white flowers. It may be grown aquatically.

Ajaytao Photography