16 The DilyNews, Fray eceber 27, 996
Poinsettias firmly established as holiday tradition
I am bombarded every holiday
scams with questions about poin-
Native to Mexico. poinsettia
(Eyphorbia pulcberrima) was first
cultivated by the Aztec Indians,
who considered the plant a symbol
of purity. The Indians made red dye
from its Iowers and fever medicine
from its milky latx sap.
But when 17th century Francis.
can priests found the 'cd flower
plants blooming during the season
of Advent they used poinsettias to
docurate the nativity scene during
their Christmas cclehnation.
The plant got its popular name
from Jul Robert Poit, the first
American ambassador to Mexico.
In 1825, Ambassador Poinselt
cnl some If the plants in his home.
town, Greenville, South Carolina.
From there, the plants were dis-
tributed throughout the world to
In the early 1920U poinscllias'
popularity took off when Albert
Ecke and his sons began to grow
poinsettias along the road with
other cut flowers in Southern Cali-
Later, the Ecke family potted
poinsettias, thus changing the hisio.
ly of the planL From there, breed.
ing of the plant took place and sev-
cral varieties were tried in the
fields. As a result, such varieties as
Oak Leal were established, thus
opening up the poinscuia industry.
Many of these early poinsettia types
carried the Eck family name, a Its
limonial to the imprnance of this
Poinsetia are a tropical to sub-
tropical plat, not suitable for grow
ing in temperate climates. In the
1950s, poinsettias were being
hybridized all over the world.
Today, plant magazines and
local nurseries in the Virgin Islands
cary a wide diversity of poinsct-
tias. In these islands, wild species
of poinsettias still thrive in our
Red blooms are common, but
there are all shades of red, from
brilliant bright red to deep crimson.
There are several shades of pink
and outndin while types Sever-
al type have variegated bracts.
speckled red, white, and pink.
Some people may wonder why
poinsettias blossom only in the all.
As the environment influences
man's behavior, so it can influence
plants. Many physiological changes
in plants are related to a seasonal
change in day length. Such changes
incdde braking of bed dormancy,
seed germination, and the onset of
Poinsellias blossom in the fall
season to produce flowers because
ofthe long nights and short days.
There ae o significant insect or
disease problem when poinsettias
are grown aa home plant. Howev-
er, when the plants grow outdoors,
they are very susceptible to while
flies and other sucking insects.
These pest problems can be con-
trolled by applying pesticides or
Poinsettias are also toxic. The
sap of poinsetias are highly irritate
ing to the skin of susceptible per-
Here are some tips to ensure that
your poinsettias survive during the
1. When selecting a poinscuia,
look for tightly clustered, small
central flowers with crisp, bright
foliage. Green foliage down to the
soil line indicates the plant has
active, healthy roots
2. While some poinsettias
require daily watering. others need
it lss frequently.
3. Indoors, poinsettias need at
least six hours of natural light,
preferably near a window to retain
their color. The poinsettia life is
shortened considerably by continu-
ous dim light or darkness when
4. A temperature rae of 60 to85
degrees per day is ideal for prolong-
ing its color. Poinsettias flourish in
5. Place plants out of the reach
ofyoung children ad animals.
Alr the Chrismas season, pot-
led poinsettias can continue to grow
all ye round.
To leam how to grow poinsettias
outdoors after Christmas season
contact the UVI Extensio Service
on St. Thomas at 693-1080: or on
St. Coix, at 778.9491.
Olusee Davis, who holds a ni-
er o science deee in range ma-
agese and forest r ecology, is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and