Joel Roberts Poinsett
December 27, 2002 8:48 PM   Subscribe

Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first American ambassador to Mexico, Martin Van Buren's Secretary of War, and a founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, which later became the Smithsonian Institute. But his most lasting legacy at Christmastime is as the namesake and American "discoverer" of the poinsettia.
posted by jonp72 (4 comments total)
Very interesting stuff, jonp72 - and poinsettia is thankfully much easier to pronounce than cuetlaxochitl!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:26 PM on December 27, 2002

I dunno. I prefer the Mexican "Flor de Fuego" (Fire Flower). Saying the word "Poinsettia" out loud makes my testosterone nervous. (Sorry Joel).
posted by Opus Dark at 1:39 AM on December 28, 2002

In Denmark it's called "Julestjerne" - literally "Christmas Star".
posted by cx at 3:48 AM on December 28, 2002

Poinsettias are the subject of a lot of debate at Christmas time if you work in the flower business. They are not, contrary to popular belief, poisonous, although it's very hard to convince anyone otherwise. You'd have to eat several entire plants (not recommending that, mind you!) just to get a tummy ache. There's also a lot of misunderstanding as to which part of the plant is the actual flower; it's not the blooms, which come in shades of red, pink, white, or marbled - those are leaves, or bracts, if you will. The actual flower is the small cluster of cyathium in the middle of each circle of colored bracts. The flowers have no petals, so we tend not to even notice them, or mistake them for berries. The sap from the flowers is still used in some cultures as a cure for fever and chills.

The most oft-asked question with regards to Poinsettias: how do I get them to bloom again next Christmas? Don't listen to anyone who tells you to toss them in a closet all day and night - lack of sunlight will just kill them. You want to replicate the conditions in a greenhouse - that is, natural sunlight, and then total darkness. No artificial light or they won't bloom. So, starting in early November, keep them in the sun during the day (waterering them occasionally) and as soon as it gets dark out wherever you live, either put them in a closet, or cover them in dark plastic. Lather, rinse, repeat; in several weeks you'll have flowers and bracts galore.

And so ends Poinsettia Fun Facts 101 ;) Thanks for the links, jonp72 - I had no idea old Joel was such an interesting guy.
posted by iconomy at 7:19 AM on December 28, 2002

« Older New Year's Gastronomy   |   Oh, those wacky Japanese animators! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments