Poinsettia/ Julestjerne is an ornamental plant originally from Mexico . It is a commercially important plant and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.
Poinsettia is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 metres (2–13 ft). The plant bears dark green dentate leaves that measure 7–16 centimetres (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves. The colors of the bracts are created through photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.
Young plants are partly succulents. The short branches are from beginning herbel-like and juicy, but they gradually turn wooden-like. The barch is first olive green, but later greyish brown with crevices. The upperside of the leaves is dark green, while the underside is light green.
The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.
Like in other plants of the spurge family (vortemælkfamilien) the juice is latex-containing and white. People with latexallergy must avoid to get the juice on their skin. The plant iself is only vaguely poisonous .There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.
In areas outside its natural environment, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant where it prefers good morning sun, then shade in the hotter part of the day. Contrary to popular belief, flowering poinsettias can be kept outside, even during winter, as long as they are kept frost-free. It is widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates.
The plant requires a daily period of uninterrupted long, dark nights
followed by bright sunny days for around two months in autumn in order
to encourage it to develop colored bracts.
Any incidental light during these nights (from a nearby television set,
from under a door frame, even from passing cars or street lights)
hampers bract production. Commercial production of poinsettia has been
done by placing them inside a greenhouse and covering the latter
completely to imitate the natural biological situation.
Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic.
The species is naturalized in many other tropic districts.
The poinsettia has been cultivated in egypt since the 1860s, when it was brought from Mexico during the Egyptian campaign. It is called bent el consul, "the consul's daughter", referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett
The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil". Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Easter flower.
In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as Crown of the Andes. In Turkey, it is called Atatürk's flower because Atatürk, the founder of the Republic, liked this flower and made a significant contribution to its cultivation in Turkey. In Hungarian, it is called Santa Claus flower, and it's widely used as a Christmas decoration.
The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.
From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the Blood Sacrifice through the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.