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Poinsettias - The Star of Christmas

Posted on 1st Dec 2011 @ 4:49 PM

Poinsettias – The Star of Christmas

There are many things associated with Christmas, which have either been traditions for many many years or through modern culture have hitched their wagon to the festive season. Poinsettias are a Christmas tradition that I thought had just rolled along into modern times, due to their red and green colours....how wrong I was..

This amazing plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend has it that a young girl was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The story tells that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church alter. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem.

Within nature this is also a plant built to survive. With its unassuming flowers, which would not attract pollinators the poinsettia developed brightly coloured leaves (aka bracts) in which to attract the pollinators to the plant to ensure it’s survival. Many people assume that these bracts are the flower petals of the plant. In fact the flowers are grouped within the small yellow structures found in the centre of each leaf bunch and are called cyathia.

The Aztecs also used the Poinsettia to produce red dye and as a medicinal plant to calm a fever

I think that people have dismissed this plant in the past and there have been many misconceptions such as that this a highly toxic plant. This is not true, it is mildly irritating to the skin, or stomach and that people who may have sensitivity to latex may suffer an allergic reaction.

In warmer climates the poinsettia can be used as a garden plant and are quite common in the subtropical climates north of Sydney. Here in Canberra this is a plant that needs to be indoors throughout the winter months to protect it from frost. Throughout summer the poinsettia can be placed outdoors where it has morning sun and then shade in the hotter part of the day. The poinsettia prefers moist soil and if in a pot doesn’t like to be sitting in water, so it’s best to have free draining pot and if the pot has a saucer empty out any excess water.

Brighten up your home this Christmas with a gorgeous poinsettia, come in and see the range at the nursery.