Most familiar plants are known either for their green foliage or for their colourful flowers. The poinsettia (or Christmas star) is different: it conjures up spectacular coloured leaves in winter. Goodbye winter blues.
Colours and shapes
The poinsettia has large oval green leaves. In the winter the plant developed tiny yellowish green flowers that are flanked by the familiar coloured bracts. In the past you saw the red version everywhere, but you can increasingly spot the plant with leaves that are creamy white, pale yellow or (salmon) pink. And if you’re lucky you may even encounter a flamed variety.
The poinsettia is a plant full of goodwill. It derives its name from the American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. At the start of the 19th century he sent the plant as an annual gift to his family and friends in the US. As a result, the plant quickly came to symbolise love and good wishes. In the United States the anniversary of Joel’s death on 12 December has even been declared Poinsettia Day. That is the day on which they give one another poinsettias.
In the wild the poinsettia grows in damp subtropical mountain regions in Central America. Not as a modest plant, but as a bush that can reach a height of four metres. The wild poinsettia blooms from November to February, and then remains bare throughout the other months.