December I am asked questions about plants and animals associated with
Christmas. Most focus on reindeer and mistletoe, but some are about
poinsettias, Americas most popular Christmas flower.
colorful plants, a harbinger of Christmas, are already in stores nationwide.
Two common questions: Are poinsettias poisonous? Can they be kept alive
and flowering after Christmas?
are said to have a bitter, unpleasant taste and may cause an upset stomach
but reportedly are not toxic (or at least not fatal) to humans or to
dogs and cats. The conclusion about pets I can accept, but I am always
a bit skeptical about reports of this nature with regard to humans.
question is who did the tests on people? If a poinsettia tastes nasty
and would not be good in a salad, who, after finding this out, kept
on eating it? Even children do not typically continue eating something
that is unpalatable.
than relying on the conventional wisdom that eating poinsettias will
not kill you, I suggest a simple policy regarding whether to ingest
the festive Christmas plant (as well as what to do about other plants
that dont come from your own garden or the food section of the
dont know for sure if its edible, dont eat it. This
approach comes with a 100 percent safety guarantee. But chowing down
on poinsettias is not likely to become a popular holiday pastime, so
their toxicity is rather a nonissue.
belong to a large and economically important family of plants known
as the Euphorbiaceae, many of which are called spurges. The more than
7,000 species in the family are distributed throughout the continents
and islands of the world, making it one of the largest and most widespread
plant groups. Some euphorbia species are used as ornamental plants;
others are the source of rubber, castor oil and tapioca.
are similar to dogwoods in that the parts of the plant that are attractive
to us are not actually petals; they are bracts, which are small, inconspicuous
structures on most other flowering plants. Most of us are familiar with
poinsettias as potted plants that are available during the holiday season,
but in their native Mexico and Central America, poinsettias are large
shrubs that get more than 10 feet tall.
the commercial variety, in the wild these showy plants bloom during
the winter. We have all seen the traditional red poinsettias, which
still constitute approximately three-fourths of the market. But poinsettias
in varying shades of pinks, creamy white and purple are among those
poinsettia care include keeping the thermostat set between 68 and 70
degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered to be within normal room temperature
range. They should not experience temperatures below 50 degrees. In
addition, keep poinsettias away from fireplaces, heat vents and cold
drafts. Water them whenever the dirt in the pot feels dry, but be careful
not to overwater.
should be placed in an area where they can receive about six hours of
indirect sunlight each day; avoid exposing them to direct sunlight.
And if you want to keep your poinsettia thriving after the holiday season,
use an all-purpose fertilizer. But, and this is very important, do not
fertilize the plant until the blooming season is over. Properly cared
for plants may flourish for several months but are not likely to last
till next Christmas.
U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett of Charleston, brought
the bright red flowers and their seeds to the United States in the early
1800s. Their ultimate cultivation and entry into commercial trade as
an ornamental flower has led to their becoming one of the top-selling
potted plants in the country.
ambassadorial policies in Mexico were apparently quite unpopular. But
he is also the man who introduced the United States to its premier Christmastime
flower. Not a bad way to be remembered.
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