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Poinsettia - a flower for Christmas that grows in Tenerife

Updated on October 30, 2015

Poinsettia photo

Poinsettias growing in Tenerife
Poinsettias growing in Tenerife

Poinsettias are ideal flowers for Christmas

The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a flower everyone associates with Christmas and this is not surprising because it flowers in December and has a lovely bright red colour that matches the red holly berries and the clothes worn by Father Christmas. And of course Poinsettias are often used as decorative plants around the Christmas season too.

Poinsettias will grow into small trees in warm enough climates and the plant is often seen growing like this in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It is planted in gardens, parks and along roads. Around Christmas specially grown short plants of Poinsettia are planted out in flower beds too in order to provide a bright splash of seasonal colour.

More about the Poinsettia

The red 'petals' of the Poinsettia are actually bracts, a form of modified leaf. They turn bright red after being exposed to long hours of darkness on a daily basis which of course they get naturally in the winter months.

The actual flowers are small yellowish structures in the centre of the red rosettes of bracts. A botanist looking closely at the Poinsettia would recognise it as a member of the Spurge family or Euphorbiaceae. Like all the other euphorbia species it has white milky juice if the stems are cut.

The Poinsettia was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was first United States Minister to Mexico and who first introduced the plant to America back in 1825.  Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America.

The shrub can grow as high as 16ft and besides the usual flaming red bracts comes in other colour variations including pink, orange, cream, white and pale green. Its Latin name "pulcherrima" means the "most beautiful", and this is an apt description.

In Guatemala Poinsettias are known as "Noche Buena" which has Christmas Eve as the meaning there, whilst in Spain it is "Flor de Pascua" which translates as "Flower of Easter."

Its association with Christmas is said to have begun in 16th century Mexico when a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift to celebrate the time when Jesus was born, was told by an angel to collect some weeds from the roadside and put them by the altar of the local church. This she did and they sprouted beautiful red flowers because they were Poinsettias.  In the following century Franciscan monks adopted the plant as a symbol of the Christmas celebrations. The star-like formation of the Poinsettia flower-head was likened to the Star of Bethlehem and the red colouration was thought to represent Christ's blood.

Poinsettias are grown in many subtropical and tropical parts of the world today but the plant will not tolerate cold temperatures and cannot be grown anywhere where it can get as low as below 10 °C (50 °F).

Poinsettia plant

Poinsettia in Icod de los Vinos
Poinsettia in Icod de los Vinos

Poinsettias are popular in America

The Poinsettia has become an important flower in many parts of North America. December 12 is celebrated as National Poinsettia Day throughout the land, and the plant is on sale at countless hardware stores and florists.

Big Spring in Texas is even known as the "lighted Poinsettia capital." This is because at the Big Spring State Park there is a 200 foot bluff which has six large metal Poinsettias and a 10 ft. tall star wrapped in Christmas lights. Big Spring now celebrates "Poinsettias in the Park" between 1 December and 1 January.

Poinsettias have become a popular flower in many parts of the world and it has certainly lived up to its description as the "most beautiful" spurge.


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Mary!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      We can grown Poinsettias here in S. Fl. year round. In fact, mine are getting red bracts now. My shrubs are about 4 ft. tall. They are a beautiful plant. You have some good photos here.