During this month, you may notice a seasonal-looking plant in the shops or in your friend’s or relative’s homes when you visit. In fact, if there is one when you go visiting, you’d be hard-pushed to miss it. These plants are no wallflowers (pun intended) and are brash, showy, large specimens. They are called poinsettias. Here in my Education Quizzes office, I have one sitting by my desk.
At this time of year, houseplants are not normally flowering in the UK. I recall one year a cactus we owned decided to flower over Christmas in great flourish – and we had vivid, almost dazzling pink flowers on the Christmas table. But usually plants are having a little rest during winter – however this is when the poinsettia comes into its own.
The poinsettia hails from Mexico and its name comes from the first United States Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. It was he who introduced the plant to the States nearly 200 years ago.
The plant looks like it has huge red flowers along with dark green leaves – this is not the case. The ‘flower’ is also leaves which are simply a different colour due to something called photoperiodism. This process requires the plant to be in darkness for a certain number of hours each day for almost a week, along with plenty of light during the day. This will first ensure the leaves change colour and that that colour will be as bright as it can be!
Poinsettias became associated with Christmas through an old legend. It told of a young girl who was too poor to take a gift to church in honour of Jesus’ birthday. An angel advised her to pick some roadside weeds and place them at the altar. Those weeds miraculously transformed into crimson petals and became the poinsettia.
If you are out & about visiting during this festive season and would like to take a gift, a poinsettia makes an unusual and welcome present in any home. They make a nice change from smelly soaps and chocolates! For more information about how to look after them, check out the Royal Horticultural Society website.
So, now you know all about the poinsettia, but how well do you know other flowers? Test yourself by playing our Nature quizzes. We have over sixty of them, many of which are all about flowers, trees and other plants. If you fancy yourself as green-fingered, give them a go and see whether you can score 10 out of 10 on them all!