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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois
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10 Interesting Facts about Poinsettias

Posted by Ron Wolford - Holidays

No flower says Christmas like the beautiful poinsettia. Learn a few facts about this traditional Christmas plant.

Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.

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 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.

The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).

Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.

Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico.

In Mexico the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that will grow 10-15 feet tall.

There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like red, white, pink, burgundy, yellow, apricot, marbled and speckled.

December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.

For more information about poinsettias, check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Poinsettia Pages at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia/



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