Most familiar plants are known for either their green foliage or their colourful flowers. The poinsettia, also known as the Christmas star, is different. In winter, it proudly displays spectacular coloured leaves, banishing our blues and getting us in the festive spirit.
Colours and shapes
The poinsettia has large oval green leaves. In the winter the plant develops tiny yellowish green flowers, framed by the familiar coloured leaf bracts. In the past, it was the red version that was everywhere, but increasingly you can now spot the plant with creamy white, pale yellow or salmon pink leaves. If you’re lucky, you may even spy a flamed variety.
The meaning of poinsettia is full of goodwill. Its name comes from a former American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. At the start of the 19th century, he sent the plant as an annual gift to friends in the US. As a result, the plant quickly came to symbolise love and good wishes. In the United States the anniversary of Poinsett's death on 12 December has even been declared Poinsettia Day: a day for exchanging poinsettias with family and friends.
Wild poinsettia grows in the damp, subtropical mountain regions of Central America. There, it's not a modest plant, but appears as a bush that can reach a height of four metres. The poinsettia blooms from November to February, perfect for Christmas.