Did you know? Fun Poinsettia Facts
by Jill West, Al's Head Annuals Grower
Poinsettias are one of the few crops that are grown commercially in all 50 states. California takes tops honors with about 27% of all potted poinsettias being grown in the state. 65 million are sold nationally every year, which accounts for about one third of all flowering potted plant sales! 150 million are sold worldwide, and about 80% of all that are sold are red.
Poinsettias are native to Southern Mexico and Central America. Mexican folklore tells of a poor young girl who had no present to give to the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. On her way to the church, she gathered a bouquet of weeds from along the roadside. As she approached the altar with her humble gift, the weeds in the bouquet were transformed into brilliant red blossoms. The flowers are known as the Flores de la Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, and only bloom during the Christmas season.
What most of us think of as flowers on a poinsettia are in fact not flowers at all. The brilliant red colors we see are actually modified leaves, or bracts. The true flowers are small and yellow, clustered together at the center of bracts. The Aztec actually used these red leaves to make dyes for their clothing.
Poinsettias were first introduced to the United States in 1825 by the first Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel R. Poinsett. While the Latin name Euphorbia pulcherrima means "the most beautiful euphorbia", the name Poinsettia stuck in celebration of their discoverer. In fact, in 1851, an act of Congress declared December 12th National Poinsettia Day to honor the passing of Dr. Poinsett.
Poinsettias are not poisonous! Though often given a bad rap, repeated studies by universities and the National Poison Center have shown that a 50lb child could eat over 500 bracts and only have a mild tummy ache. In 1992 the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants most helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air. Not only are poinsettias safe and beautiful, but during the holidays they help provide a breath of safe, clean air!