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The poinsettia (/pɔɪnˈsɛtiə/ or /pɔɪnˈsɛtə/)[1][2] ( Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima) is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). The species is indigenous to Mexico. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas
Christmas
floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett,[3] the first United States Minister to Mexico,[4] who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.

Contents

1 Description 2 Religious and other traditional associations 3 Creation of the American poinsettia industry 4 Cultivation

4.1 Diseases

5 Toxicity claims 6 References 7 External links

Description[edit]

Poinsettia
Poinsettia
leaves, bracts, and flowers at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve of West Bengal, India

Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 metres (2–13 ft). The plant bears dark green dentate leaves that measure 7–16 centimetres (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves.[5][6] 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. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.[7] The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.[8] The poinsettia is native to Mexico.[9] It is found in the wild in deciduous tropical forests at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa
Sinaloa
down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico
Mexico
to Chiapas
Chiapas
and Guatemala. It is also found in the interior in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas.[10] Reports of E. pulcherrima growing in the wild in Nicaragua
Nicaragua
and Costa Rica
Costa Rica
have yet to be confirmed by botanists.[11] Religious and other traditional associations[edit] The Aztecs
Aztecs
used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication.[8] In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil"[8] Today it is known in Mexico
Mexico
and Guatemala
Guatemala
as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas
Christmas
Eve Flower.[8] In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Easter
Easter
flower.[8] In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as Crown of the Andes.[8] In Hungarian, it is called Santa Claus' Flower, and is widely used as a Christmas decoration. The plant's association with Christmas
Christmas
began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.[12] Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.[13] From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico
Mexico
included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.[14] The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.[15] Poinsettias are popular Christmas
Christmas
decorations[3] in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Day.[16] Creation of the American poinsettia industry[edit] Albert Ecke emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900, opening a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock area. He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed the grafting technique, but it was the third generation of Eckes, Paul Ecke Jr., who was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and Christmas.[17] Besides changing the market from mature plants shipped by rail to cuttings sent by air, he sent free plants to television stations for them to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He also appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show
and Bob Hope's Christmas
Christmas
specials to promote the plants.[17] Until the 1990s, the Ecke family, who had moved their operation to Encinitas, California, in 1923, had a virtual monopoly on poinsettias owing to a technique that made their plants much more attractive.[18] They produced a fuller, more compact plant by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally take an open, somewhat weedy look. The Eckes' technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant.[18] In the late 1980s, university researcher John Dole[19] discovered the method previously known only to the Eckes and published it,[20] allowing competitors to flourish, particularly those using low-cost labor in Latin America. The Ecke family's business, now led by Paul Ecke III, decided to stop producing plants in the U.S., but as of 2008, they still serve about 70 percent of the domestic market and 50 percent of the worldwide market.[17] Cultivation[edit]

A poinsettia that was stressed and reflowered after growing in bonsai form

Poinsettia
Poinsettia
varieties on sale in England

A close-up photo of a poinsettia ( Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima)

The poinsettia has been cultivated in Egypt
Egypt
since the 1860s, when it was brought from Mexico
Mexico
during the Egyptian campaign. It is called bent el consul, "the consul's daughter", referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.[11] There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.[8][21] In areas outside its natural environment, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant where it prefers good morning sun, then shade in the hotter part of the day. Contrary to popular belief, flowering poinsettias can be kept outside, even during winter, as long as they are kept frost-free. It is widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates such as Australia, Rwanda
Rwanda
and Malta.[22] The plant requires a daily period of uninterrupted long, dark nights followed by bright sunny days for around two months in autumn in order to encourage it to develop colored bracts.[citation needed] Any incidental light during these nights (from a nearby television set, from under a door frame, even from passing cars or street lights) hampers bract production. Commercial production of poinsettia has been done by placing them inside a greenhouse and covering the latter completely to imitate the natural biological situation.[citation needed] To produce extra axillary buds that are necessary for plants containing multiple flowers, a phytoplasma infection—whose symptoms include the proliferation of axillary buds—is used.[23] The discovery of the role phytoplasmas play in the growth of axillary buds is credited to Ing-Ming Lee of the USDA
USDA
Agricultural Research Service.[24]

Diseases[edit] Main article: List of poinsettia diseases Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic. Toxicity claims[edit] In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, there is a common misconception that the poinsettia is highly toxic. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf.[25] While the sap and latex of many plants of the spurge genus are indeed toxic,[26] the poinsettia's toxicity is relatively mild. Its latex can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.[27] It is also mildly irritating to the skin or stomach[9] and may sometimes cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten.[28] Sap introduced into the human eye may cause temporary blindness.[29] An American Journal of Emergency Medicine
American Journal of Emergency Medicine
study of 22,793 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed no fatalities, and furthermore that a strong majority of poinsettia exposures are accidental, involve children, and usually do not result in any type of medical treatment.[30] POISINDEX, a major source for poison control centers, says a 50 lb (23 kg) child would have to eat 500 bracts (poinsettia leaves) to accumulate levels of toxins found to be harmful in experiments.[25] An Ohio State University study showed no problems even with extremely large doses.[31]

References[edit]

^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. ISBN 0-582-05383-8.  entry "poinsettia" ^ "poinsettia". Dictionary.com. Retrieved December 15, 2012.  ^ a b Bussell, Gene (December 2009). "Get Ready for Holiday Flowers". Southern Living. 44 (12): 88.  ^ "Mexico". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2016.  ^ " Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Facts - The Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Pages - University of Illinois Extension". extension.illinois.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-20.  ^ Perry, Leonard. "Fun Facts about Poinsettias". pss.uvm.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-20.  ^ "How To Make Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Turn Red: Make A Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Rebloom". Gardening Know How. Retrieved January 28, 2010.  ^ a b c d e f g Seltzer, Erica D.; Spinner, MaryAnne. "Poinsettia Facts". The Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Pages. University of Illinois
University of Illinois
Extension. Retrieved January 30, 2017.  ^ a b Bender, Steve, ed. (January 2004). "Euphorbia". The Southern Living Garden Book (2nd ed.). Birmingham, Alabama: Oxmoor House. p. 306. ISBN 0-376-03910-8.  ^ Trejo, L., M. E. Olson, P. Feria, K. M. Olsen, L. E. Eguiarte, B. Arroyo y J. A. Gruhn. 2012. "Poinsettia's wild ancestor in the Mexican dry tropics: historical, genetic, and environmental evidence." American Journal of Botany 99: 1146–1157. ^ a b Joel Roberts Poinsett. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition [serial online]. November 2011;:1. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 8, 2012 ^ "The Legends and Traditions of Holiday Plants Horticulture and Home Pest News". www.ipm.iastate.edu. Retrieved February 17, 2016.  ^ Flowers Ireland Archived November 18, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Jauron, Richard (December 8, 1995). "The Legends and Traditions of Holiday Plants". Horticulture and Home Pest News. Iowa State University. Retrieved November 27, 2017.  ^ "'The Christmas
Christmas
Poinsettia' Fine Art Print by Anne Gitto". RedBubble. Retrieved January 28, 2010.  ^ " Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Day Bill of Congress". Poinsettiaday.com. July 22, 2002. Retrieved November 27, 2017.  ^ a b c Anton, Mike (December 23, 2008). "The bloom is off the poinsettia business". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2008.  ^ a b Cynthia Crossen, "Holiday's Ubiquitous Houseplant," Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2000. ^ How Poinsettias Became Synonymous With Christmas ^ Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Day Industry ^ Perry, Leonard. "Fun Facts About Poinsettia". Perry's Perennial Pages. University of Vermont
University of Vermont
Extension, Department of Plant
Plant
and Soil Sciences. Retrieved May 7, 2014.  ^ Smurfplant, Habitat ^ Lee; et al. (1997). " Phytoplasma
Phytoplasma
induced free branching in commercial cultivars". 15. Nature Biotechnology: 178–182.  ^ Kaplan, Kim (December 1, 2015). "Poinsettias: Helping an Icon to Bloom at the Right Time". USDA. Retrieved November 27, 2017.  ^ a b "Poisonous Poinsettias". Snopes.com. Retrieved December 16, 2008.  ^ Eke, Tom; Al-Husainy, Sahar & Raynor, Mathew K. (2000). "The spectrum of ocular inflammation caused by Euphorbia
Euphorbia
plant sap" (PDF). Arch Ophthalmol. 118 (1): 13–16. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.1.13. PMID 10636407.  ^ "Latex Allergy? Beware Poinsettias". WebMD. Retrieved January 28, 2010.  ^ "Are Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Plants Poisonous? Fact or Fiction?". Retrieved December 21, 2007.  ^ "Complete Poinsettia
Poinsettia
information from Drugs.com". Drugs.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.  ^ Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis JM (November 1996). "Poinsettia exposures have good outcomes...just as we thought". Am J Emerg Med. 14 (7): 671–4. doi:10.1016/S0735-6757(96)90086-8. PMID 8906768.  ^ " Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Care in the Home". Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 

External links[edit]

The Wikibook Horticulture has a page on the topic of: Euphorbia pulcherrima

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Poinsettia.

The Wild Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Page: Images of Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima in the wild in Mexico Euphorbia
Euphorbia
pulcherrima (poinsettia) - Plants & Fungi At Kew Patently Poinsettia
Poinsettia
By Elizabeth Dougherty Snopes on toxicity Earthworm Castings as a Substrate for Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Production Manipulation of Light Environment to Produce High-quality Poinsettia Plants Patent US4724276 - Process for altering poinsettia growth Poinsettia: The Christmas
Christmas
Flower Poinsettia
Poinsettia
pages at the University of Illinois, UIUC Poinsettias in Africa Ohio State University
Ohio State University
Fact Sheet Poinsettia
Poinsettia
FAQ

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Wd: Q208253 APDB: 106259 EoL: 1144084 EPPO: EPHPU FoC: 200012573 GBIF: 3066465 GRIN: 16403 iNaturalist: 162845 IPNI: 347947-1 ITIS: 502548 NCBI: 37495 PalDat: Euphorbia_pulcherrima Plant
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