Monday, November 28, 2011

Flowers in Season November 27 - December 3

Can you believe it will be December in just a few days? I refuse to acknowledge the holiday's after Thanksgiving until I have enjoyed Thanksgiving, being that it is my favorite holiday. But now that that is over it is time to embrace the season of Christmas. This week's flower is the poinsettia.

Euphorbia pulcherrima

Photo via Garden World Images

The poinsettia is synonymous with Christmas. Poinsettia are native to Mexico. The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication.[1] Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "Noche Buena", meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as "Flor de Pascua", meaning "Easter flower". In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Crown of the Andes".

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.[2] From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.[3] 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.[4]

Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae family. Many plants in this family ooze a milky sap.[5] As with all ornamental plants, poinsettias are not intended for human or animal consumption. Individuals with a sensitivity to latex - the milky fluid found in cut poinsettias and other plants - may experience allergic reactions in the form of a rash or irritation that develops when the skin is exposed to the latex. This has been observed to occur only with people who are allergic to latex and products made from this material. However, the poinsettia has been demonstrated to be a safe plant. In fact, in 1992, the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants most helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air. So, not only is the poinsettia a safe and beautiful addition to your holiday decor, it can even help keep your indoor air clean! [6]

Even I didn't know that the poinsettia was not poisonous - I have never had them in my home for the holidays for fear of poisoning my cats. I am pleased to find out that not only can I get a few this year, but that they will clean the air in my home as well. Now I just have to decide what color to buy!

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