Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Christmas Plant.........

Euphorbia pulcherrima

The Poinsettia 

                  is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 2 to 16 ft.                               
The dark green leaves measure 3 to 6 inches in length.                                   
 The coloured leaves, which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white or marbled, are named ... bracts.  

The leaves require a period of 12 hours darkness and 12 hours of bright light to produce their vibrant colours.   This occurs naturally here on the coast of Granada in the period before Christmas and Poinsettia shrubs with their flaming bracts are a common sight in gardens.
The tiny flowers are unassuming and grow in the centre of each leaf bunch.

 The Poinsettia was discovered in Southern Mexico by American botanist Joel Joel Poinsett who was also the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and who is credited with its introduction into the U.S.A. in 1828.                  

Long before this, the Aztecs who named it "Cuetlaxochitle" which means mortal flower, knew and valued the plant.   To them it was a symbol of purity and a reminder of the blood sacrifice as well as being a valuable red dye and medicine against fever.                                         
 It has been said that in the days of Montezuma, the last king of the Aztecs, large quantities were transported by caravan to his mountainous capital because it could not be grown naturally at that altitude.                                
 When the Franciscan priests introduced Christianity into Mexico it was a simple transfer of symbolism from purity and blood sacrifice to its representation of the blood of Christ in their celebration of Christmas.                                     


                What would Joel Poinsett have thought of the vivid modern day cultivars?

    The  death of Joel Poinsett is commemorated in America on 12th December as ‘Poinsettia Day’.