Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Poinsettia

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Poinsettia!

Flickr photo by jacilluch
Are you a poinsettia lover?
Or have the dime store fakes turned you against the lovely flower? Have you relegated the poinsettia to the corner of your brain saved for Christmas kitsch?

Flickr photo by suzysputnik
Personally, I like a little Christmas kitsch.
Maybe you don't like poinsettias because you haven't found the right variety.

Flickr photo by munkymu
Are you a purist, preferring only Christmas red? Or do you walk on the wild side, experimenting with gold, pink, white, or (gasp!) blue?
I'm curious. Do tell me in a comment. Pretty please?
Personally, I like the pink ones. Don't hate me, purists.

Maybe I'm a fan of the poinsettia because of its connection to South Carolina.
If not for Joel Roberts Poinsett, we might have to call it the Cuitlaxochitl, its Aztec name. I don't know about you, but I have no idea how to pronounce that. I'd have to point or play charades.

Thank you Mr. Poinsett!


Flickr photo by twaller80
Whoops! That's not Mr. Poinsett. Still, let's linger here a moment.

So sorry about the mistake. It's just that every time I think of Poinsett, I think of the Poinsett Hotel in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, where George Clooney filmed Leatherheads.

Flickr photo by olympusjgreen
Remember when George came to town?

Back to Mr. Poinsett...

There he is. Not quite as dashing, but still, I do love a Renaissance man. Mr. Poinsett was a physician, a botanist and a Congressman for South Carolina, and the first US Ambassador to Mexico. He introduced the Cuitlaxochitl to the USA in 1828.
We named the poinsettia after him, the Poinsett hotel, and the Poinsett Bridge, near Saluda Mountain. Isn't it pretty?

Flickr photo by drdvdmoyer
Back to poinsettias...

Do you know the Christmas legend of how the poinsettia came to be? It dates back to sixteenth century Mexico. The story goes that a young girl too poor to buy a gift to celebrate Jesus' birthday was visited by an angel. The angel told her to pick a bunch of weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the altar. Red blossoms sprouted--the first poinsettia!

Did you realize that the red petals aren't petals at all? They're just pigmented leaves.
Sorry if this crushes you.
To cheer you up, take a look at the actual flower part of the poinsettia, the center part.

Flickr photo by http://snow.ipernity.com
Freaky, huh?
Those yellow structures are called cyathia.
I LOVE them.
I LOVE to make crazy aliens out of them on Paintshop.
See?

Next time you get a chance, look into the center of your own poinsettia. You may have an alien colony of your own!

Have a wonder-full Tuesday, everyone!
Love, Becky

16 comments:

a Tonggu Momma said...

:) I always love your lessons, Becky. And don't forget that poinsettias are lethal if eaten by beloved household pets. Keep them up high!

JaxPop said...

When we lived in Pa, Deb always filled the joint with red & white Poinsettas, placing them 'strategically' around the fireplaces & on the sills at the big windows in the living room & dining room. She always had to have the great big ones - 2feet tall & yay wide. Those buggers weren't cheap either - I know 'cause I had to write the check (& carry 'em in the house).

Maybe she was just tryin' real hard to kill the cat.

TattingChic said...

LOL! I love the crazy aliens you made out of the poinsettia blossoms! Thank you for educating me about how Poinsettias came to the US and how they got their name! Very cool. Thanks for the George pic, too! ;)

Kat said...

Wow. The flower part is weird looking. I like it. ;)
I love poinsettias.

Rosemary said...

Love your post today Rebecca!!
I like the white ones. I bought a white tipped in a reddish pink just yesterday!
Have a wonderful day,
Rosemary

Cat Moleski said...

I like the red ones best, but this year I branched out and bought a white one, too!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I admire any post that works George Clooney into the middle of it...
I adore Poinsettias and proudly give them as teacher gifts each year. I'm partial to the deep red ones.

LW said...

I like the white ones but always get red.... sometimes I need just a little pop of color here and there...

Louise

adrienne said...

Cute little aliens!
Pointsettias grow around here, but it's hard to keep them nice looking in the garden.
I like the white ones.

CC said...

I knew the red parts were actually leaves, but I didn't know about the cyathia. They look like Sock Monkies to me :)

Susan said...

I used to like all the colors, until I looked at the alien part. I got so scared that I cried for 10 minutes. Then I went back up and looked at George. Ahhh, now everything's better. Thanks.

Gina2424 said...

Love your ciatha people and the new Mr. Poinsett. Our neighbor brings us one every year, and we have to give it away because Larry the Cat won't stop chewing on it. He ate half a leaf as soon as our backs were turned. Vet reports only enough to make him gak once. Poinsettia heading to MIL.

May Vanderbilt said...

Okay, grammar geek alert. What I love about poinsettias is that everyone mispronounces it! It's like mischievous and sherbet.

Most people call them: poin-set-ahs

But they are actually: poin-set-tee-ahs.

Do you see the forgotten "i" now?

lotusloq said...

Seems like everything can bring us back around to George! It is nice to linger there.

Love those Poinsettias. The aliens are hilarious. I'll have to try that sometime with my kids.

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Pretty post - flowers and Clooney always go well together. :-)

I do love them too - there's a wonderful reference I read recently in Rose Tremain's "The Road Home" when a Polish man walks for hours to the market to get some for his grandmother's Christmas gift, the color so dramatic, in amongst the gray scenery... I digress...

White or red, they are so Christmassy.The aliens pic made me smile. (George even more so, but shh)

Rhondi said...

Hi Becky
You have the most interesting facts and pictures on your blog. I always enjoy my visits here.
Hugs, Rhondi