Written by: on December 7, 2020 @ 8:00 am

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Poinsettia Day
December 12, 2020

Image Source: Pixabay.com

It’s Poinsettia Day – Yay! What is this day all about? It all started with a scientist!

John Roberts Poinsett was a botanist, a scientist who specializes is plants and trees. He was also a physician, and the 1st United States Ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett introduced these beautiful red, white, or pink plants, that were named after him, poinsettias. This man sent poinsettias from Mexico back to greenhouses that he owned in South Carolina. Before its renaming as the poinsettia, the plant was known as the “painted leaf” or the “Mexican flame flower.” Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima.

In Spain, Puerto Rico, and other Central America countries the poinsettia is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Christmas Flower. Poinsettias have served important roles throughout history, for example: The Aztecs used the plant to produce reddish-purple dye and as an antipyretic (fever reduction) medication.

It’s Christmas time, and what do you see in the storefront of just about every shop you pass? Besides sprigs of holly and bright, twinkling lights, you are likely to see colorful arrangements of poinsettias too.

These breathtaking flowers are common during the holiday season. However, do you know why? The poinsettia has a deep cultural and symbolic meaning. Seen as a symbol of purity by the Aztecs, in today’s language it symbolizes cheer, success, and brings wishes of mirth and celebration! Recognized as the birth flower for December, poinsettias are used as decorations to create a festive atmosphere throughout the entire world, particularly in Europe, but also in the USA, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Paul Ecke Jr is considered the father of the poinsettia industry due to his discovery of a technique which caused seedlings to branch. This technique allowed the poinsettia industry to grow! The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of the poinsettias sold in the USA! The Ecke family had a secret technique that caused every seedling to split and branch, resulting in a fuller plant.

A poinsettia fun fact is that in 1952 the NCAA College football arena in San Diego was named the Poinsettia Bowl! Interestingly, the poinsettia’s main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves! The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center (termed “cyathia”). The colored leafy parts are bracts or modified leaves, that turn color in response to the plant forming flowers. When buying a poinsettia, make sure it has the buds, preferably not yet open.

Interested in learning more about plants in general? Check out our Smarty Plants at-home experiment to see if you can extract the chlorophyll out of a plant leaf. If your poinsettia has any green leaves, you can test them for chlorophyll too! Grab your supplies & check out our lesson plan here:
https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/smarty_plants.pdf

References:

www.urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia
www.poinsettiaday.com
www.poinsettiabowl.com
www.ecke.com

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Catogories: Hot Topics: Science in the News, It's National ________ Day!, Science

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