Poinsettia Cyathia (Photograph by Frank Vincentz via Wikipedia Commons)
Poinsettia Cyathia (Photograph by Frank Vincentz via Wikipedia Commons)

Euphorbia pulcherrima 

The Poinsettia


Like many other plants such as the avocado, cowfoot, and tropical mistletoe, Euphorbia pulcherrima  is indigenous to the tropical regions of southern Mexico and South America where altitude is low to moderate and rainfall is abundant but seldom lingers. While they may be found in abundance here, they are rarely found growing naturally in temperate climates and are absent in nature in areas with cold, severe winters. In their native environment, the poinsettia will appear as a large, green shrub (2-15 feet tall) growing in moist, shady locations during the long days of summer and will "blossom" during days when hours of darkness slightly overtake hours of light. Being short day plants, poinsettias are extremely sensitive to this. If there is too much exposure to light during the days proceeding bloom, the poinsettia will not flower. The habitat in which they naturally exist is so limited because outside these conditions the plant is susceptible to root-rot, loss of leaves, and failure to bloom all which eliminate the possibility of pollination and therefore seed-dispersal. 

Topography Map of Mexico (Map via Wikipedia Commons)

Of course, the poinsettia is now able to be cultivated worldwide in greenhouses. The United States is no exception, with California being the leading producer since its introduction in 1825 by Joel Poinsett. Since the beginning of their cultivation, other varieties of poinsettia have emerged. The potted poinsettias differ from wild poinsettias in that they are smaller (1 to 4 feet tall), and are much more prone to root-rot and wilting due to being forcibly grown outside of the native environment. At home, although it is possible to keep and regenerate a Christmas Flower for a second year, most people are unsuccessful because the poinsettia's environmental conditions are not correctly met.Poinsettias Cultivated in a Greenhouse in the United States (Photograph by Max Wahrhaftig via Wikipedia Commons)















Website Created by Christine Vick

March/April 2009

Questions? Comments? Email me at vick.chri@students.uwlax.edu