Good Morning All and a Very Happy New Year to you!

I do hope that the festive season has been peaceful and enjoyable for you.  As we now enter the realms of another year, I thought that before the season ended I would just give you a glimpse of the Christmas Plant that so many homes currently have within them.

A Little History

Joel Robert Poinsett, first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of Southern Mexico, introduced it to the United States in 1825. The common name for the exotic plant, poinsettia, came from his last name. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an Angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the Church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. 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.

In the United States, December 12th is National Poinsettia Day.  There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia available.

White Poinsettia

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. 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 and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials to promote the plants.

In the 1990s, a University researcher discovered the method previously known only to the Eckes family and published it, allowing competitors to flourish, particularly those using low-cost labour 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% of the domestic market and 50% of the worldwide market.

Cultivation

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. However, it is widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates such as Australia, North of Sydney.

The poinsettia has also been cultivated in Egypt since the 1860s. It was brought from Mexico during the Egyptian campaign. It is called “Bent El Consul”, “the consul’s daughter”, referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett. [citation needed].

Blue Poinsettia

The poinsettia can be difficult to induce to re-flower after the initial display when purchased. The plant requires a period of uninterrupted long, dark nights for around two months in autumn in order to develop flowers. Incidental light at night during this time will hamper flower production. When watering it is important to allow the plant to drain out any excess water. Having a poinsettia sit in water can do harm to the plant as it prefers moist soil to direct water.

In order 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.

Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic.  While the sap and latex of many plants of the spurge genus are indeed toxic, the poinsettia’s toxicity is relatively mild. Its latex can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. It is also mildly irritating to the skin or stomach and may sometimes cause diarrhoea and vomiting if eaten. Sap introduced into the human eye may cause temporary blindness.  An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study of 22,793 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centres 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. POISINDEX, a major source for poison control centres, says it would take 500 bracts for a 50-pound child to eat an amount found to be toxic in experiments. An Ohio State University study showed no problems even with extremely large doses.

 

Good health, happiness and prosperity for 2012 to all from The Wildlife Village. xxxx

Finally, it remains for me to wish our Ann a Very Happy Birthday from us and hope that a good day will be had by her and her family.  All the best to you Ann.  Much love. xxxx

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