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Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)

A small tree or shrub from Mexico and Guatemala, poinsettia is cultivated for its striking red bracts, and potted forms are the basis of a lucrative Christmas industry.
Striking red bracts surround the inconspicuous flowers of Euphorbia pulcherrima

Striking red bracts surround the inconspicuous flowers of Euphorbia pulcherrima (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch

Common name: 

poinsettia, Christmas star, Christmas flower, painted leaf, lobster plant, Mexican flameleaf (UK, USA); flor de Pascua (Spain); Noche Buena (Mexico, Guatemala); crown of the Andes (Chile, Peru).

Conservation status: 

Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Deciduous tropical forest; hot, seasonally dry forest; moist or wet, wooded ravines.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

Ingestion can lead to mild irritation of the mouth and stomach. Although many other species of Euphorbia are poisonous, poinsettia contains only low levels of chemical irritants.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Rosanae
Order: 
Malpighiales
Family: 
Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Euphorbia

About this species

Euphorbia pulcherrima is a popular garden plant in tropical and subtropical areas and is well-known as a pot-plant associated with winter festivities in temperate regions. The common English name ‘poinsettia’ was chosen by historian and gardener William H. Prescott in the mid 19th century to honour Joel Roberts Poinsett who introduced the species to the USA in 1828.

The genus Euphorbia was named in honour of Euphorbus, the Greek physician to King Juba II of Mauretania (a learned scholar of natural history) in the 1st century AD, who used the latex of Euphorbia species for medicinal purposes.

Synonym: 

Euphorbia erythrophylla Bertol., Euphorbia fastuosa Sessé & Moc., Pleuradenia coccinea Raf., Poinsettia pulcherrima (Willd. ex Klotzsch) Graham

Genus: 
Euphorbia

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