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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Why do we find poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and mistletoe in many homes during the holidays? The poinsettia and Christmas cactus have colorful flowers and mistletoe is hung in the home for those wishing to kiss under the mistletoe. While the all three plants are recognized by nearly everyone, many people are unaware of some of the interesting facts of these plants.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs.The colorful bracts were used to make a reddish purple dye. The poinsettia's milky sap was used to treat fevers. Poinsettias were first introduced into the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the United States ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829.Poinsett had plants sent to his home in South Carolina and distributed plants to horticultural friends and botanical gardens.

The colorful part of the poinsettia, commonly referred to as the plant's flowers, are actually modified leaves or bracts.The true flowers are yellow to green, button-like objects located in the center of the bracts.Poinsettias are short-day plants meaning they grow vegetatively during the long days of summer and produce flowers when days become shorter in the fall. In order for poinsettias to flower for Christmas, they must receive complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day from early October until the bracts show good color, usually around early December.

Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous.However, it is not intended for human or animal consumption.Individuals are still advised to keep the poinsettia out of the reach of small children and pets. This is because a potential health problem associated with the poinsettia is dermatitis or an irritation to the skin.When a poinsettia stem is cut or broken, milky sap oozes from the wound causing some individuals to develop a skin irritation if the sap comes in contact with their skin.

Holiday cactus is a more accurate name as a plant purchased during the holidays because it may be a Christmas cactus, a Thanksgiving cactus, or a hybrid.Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are similar in appearance with differences on their stem segments. Both are native to the mountainous forests of southeastern Brazil. Holiday cacti are epiphytes.They grow in the crotches of trees and derive water and nutrition from rains, decaying organic matter, and filtered sunlight.

Day-length and temperature control the flowering of both species.Like the poinsettia, holiday cacti are short-day plants.Plants will not bloom properly if exposed to artificial light at night.Flowers may also fail to develop if the plant is exposed to temperatures above 70 degrees F.Night temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees F with slightly warmer daytime temperatures are ideal for flower formation.

Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant with small, leathery leaves and small, white berries.Mistletoe plants manufacture their own food, but must obtain water and minerals from the host plant.American mistletoe can be found growing in deciduous trees from New Jersey southward to Florida and Texas. It is the state flower of Oklahoma.Mistletoe sold during the holiday season is gathered in the wild; mostly harvested in Oklahoma and Texas.Mistletoe fruit are poisonous and for safety reasons, most companies have replaced the fruit with artificial, plastic berries.The scientific name Phoradendron is derived from Greek and literally means "thief of the tree."

During this holiday season, enjoy the beauty and traditions of these three unique holiday plants.

If you are looking for any more information about these plants, please call our office in Cherokee County at 712-225-6196. You can also stop by at 209 Centennial Dr. Suite A, Cherokee.

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