– the Christmas Plants
you know that sales of poinsettias in the USA exceed the total of
all other potted plants put together? This year, well over 50 million
poinsettias will be sold, many of them as indoor plants to add color
at Christmas time. Here in Florida, we are lucky to be able to plant
them outside, and enjoy the beauty of their vibrant red, pink, or
white, and green displays. They are sometimes also available in
shades of cream, yellow, or peach, and some with variegated bracts
that are striped, marbled, or spotted with contrasting colors.
poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a native plant in Mexico where
it originated in a small region near Taxco. There it grows as a
shrub up to ten feet tall. They have been seen up to five feet tall
in Florida, where they bloom outdoors in December right on cue.
The Aztecs called E. pulcherrima "cuetlaxochitle," which is an even
bigger mouthful to pronounce. Because of its bright red color, cuetlaxochitle
was a symbol of purity to the Indians. It was used to make a reddish-purple
dye out of the bracts and a medicine for fever from the plant's
the Indians used it for medicine, it surprises me that many people
still believe the poinsettia to be toxic. This is absolutely untrue!
That old wive's tale has been proven untrue by university and floral
industry studies. The anti-poinsettia warnings originated in Hawaii
in 1919, when a doctor attributed — incorrectly, authorities now
say — the death of a 2-year-old child to eating a poinsettia leaf.
According to the POISINDEX database, extrapolations from experiments
on animals indicate that a 50-pound child could eat 500 or so poinsettia
leaves with no ill effects. In 1995, a study of data from poison
control centers found no toxic reactions out of almost 23,000 reported