One of the recipients of Poinsett’s plant was Robert Buist, who sold the plant at his nursery under the name Euphorbia pulcherrima. The popularity of Euphorbia pulcherrima grew quickly, and William Prescott, a historian and horticulturist, was asked to give the plant a new name. At the time, Mr. Prescott had just published a book called The Conquest of Mexico in which he detailed Joel Poinsett’s discovery of the plant. Prescott named the plant the poinsettia in honor of Joel Poinsett’s discovery.
Today there are over one hundred varieties of poinsettias. They range from the traditional red to other, exciting new colors. It is not the flowers that give the poinsettia their color, but the leaves that surround the flower, also called the plant’s cyathia. The colored leaves are known as the bract. Quite a few traditional red varieties are grown; availability depends on whether you purchase your poinsettia in early or late December. The red varieties are improved every year, and they have been bred to retain their red bracts into late winter. It’s not uncommon for them to hold their color through St. Valentine’s Day. Poinsettias also come in different shades of pink, burgundy and white.
| Novelty Poinsettias|
There is also a trend of what are collectively known as novelty poinsettias – poinsettias generally grown in a smaller pot which is 4 to 5 inches in diameter. The smaller size pots make the novelty poinsettias ideally suited for use as a decorating accent. They also make a great last minute hostess gift. Novelty poinsettias have either uniquely shaped leaves, or some sort of non-traditional coloring. These plants have been specifically bred with these traits. My favorite novelty variety is called Chianti (pictured at the left). This plant has holly shaped bracts, in a rich red color. The novelty Sonora White Glitter is another great variety. The bracts are dark red with a splash of creamy white. Previously available only in red, the variety, Winter Rose has a unique crinkly bract that curls under, much like a gathered seam. It resembles a large rose-like bloom. Winter Rose varieties are now available in pink, white, and marble, which is a two-tone pink and white.
Can I eat them?
If you really wanted too eat your poinsettia...you could. They are NOT poisonous. There is no nutritional value, and if you made yourself a poinsettia salad, people would think your having some sort of a breakdown, but you wouldn't die. Poinsettias are not toxic to animals or children, so they are perfectly safe in any household.