The Christ­mas flower comes into full bloom

Agriculture - - News -

AS THE CHRIST­MAS SEA­SON be­gins, the poin­set­tia ( Euphor­bia pul­cher­rima)— com­monly re­ferred to as the Christ­mas flower—comes into full bloom, adding color to the world’s long­est cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas.

The poin­set­tia is a vi­tal com­mer­cial plant species of the di­verse spurge fam­ily, which is in­dige­nous to Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica. It is ad­mired for its red and green fo­liage, which is widely used for Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and flo­ral dis­plays.

COM­MON NAME Ac­cord­ing to Fran­cis Gener, man­ager of King Louis Plants and Flow­ers at the Que­zon Me­mo­rial Cir­cle in Que­zon City, the poin­set­tia got its com­mon name from Joel Robert Poin­sett, the first United States Min­is­ter to Mex­ico, who in­tro­duced the plant to the US in 1825.

Gener said the Euphor­bia pul­cher­rima is a shrub or small tree, and bears dark green den­tate leaves. There are over 100 cul­ti­vated va­ri­eties of poin­set­tia which are avail­able world­wide, al­though only a few va­ri­eties are avail­able in the coun­try.

At present, Gener only cul­ti­vates five va­ri­eties which he said are com­mer­cially vi­able: Pres­tige Red, Pres­tige White, Pres­tige Pink, Ice Punch, and Glitters.

MIS­TAKEN IDEN­TITY The col­ored bracts of the poin­set­tia—which are most of­ten flam­ing red but can be or­ange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or mar­bled—are com­monly mis­taken for flower pe­tals due to their group­ings and colors, but they are ac­tu­ally leaves.

In botan­i­cal terms, a ‘bract’ is a mod­i­fied or spe­cial­ized leaf, es­pe­cially one as­so­ci­ated with a re­pro­duc­tive struc­ture such as a flower, in­flo­res­cence axis, or cone scale.

The colors of the bracts are cre­ated through pho­tope­ri­odism: they re­quire dark­ness to change color; at the same time, the poin­set­tia re­quires abun­dant but con­trolled light dur­ing the day to at­tain its bright­est color.

KEEP­ING IT IN SHAPE Gener said that to make the plant stay in shape longer, you have to make sure that the plant­ing ma­te­rial, which is com­posed of 70 per­cent coco coir and 30 per­cent la­har, is al­ways moist.

He how­ever warned that one should not di­rectly pour wa­ter into the cen­ter of the flower as the leaves will even­tu­ally fall off the plant.

The real flow­ers of the poin­set­tia are unas­sum­ing and do not at­tract pol­li­na­tors, and they are grouped within small yel­low struc­tures which can be found in the cen­ter of each leaf bunch. They are called ‘cy­athia’.

CUL­TI­VA­TION Gener said that the method for prop­a­gat­ing poin­set­tia is through top cut­tings, which re­quire care for up to three weeks. Af­ter plant­ing the cut­tings, root­ing pow­ders should be ap­plied to ac­cel­er­ate its growth. It also re­quires at least four hours of light dur­ing the night, and plenty of sun­light dur­ing the day,

and should be sup­ple­mented with 3010-10 fer­til­izer.

Af­ter the plants have grown to ma­tu­rity, they will re­quire at least 12 to 14 hours of dark­ness to main­tain the color bright­ness of the flow­ers. By this time, Gener rec­om­mends the use of Peter’s Pro­fes­sional Fo­liar Fer­til­izer to make the plants healthy.

PEAK SEA­SON He said that they usu­ally start to plant the cut­tings in the month of July; the poin­set­tia will start to bloom by late Oc­to­ber or early Novem­ber, which is when cus­tomers will start or­der­ing the plant for use as Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Gener, bulk or­ders

are usu­ally made by own­ers or op­er­a­tors of com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments for dé­cor pur­poses.

The most sought-af­ter va­ri­ety is Pres­tige Red due to its bright color, which he said is very at­trac­tive and pleas­ing to the eyes.

With proper care, a poin­set­tia can main­tain its color un­til March; how­ever, this will de­pend on the con­di­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment.

AS­SO­CI­A­TION WITH CHRIST­MAS Gener ex­plained that the as­so­ci­a­tion of poin­set­tia with the Christ­mas sea­son prob­a­bly be­gan dur­ing the 16th cen­tury, where a leg­endary girl in Mex­ico, who was too poor to pro­vide a gift for the cel­e­bra­tion of Je­sus’ birth­day, placed the plant in front of the church al­tar.

Crim­son blos­soms then sprouted from the plant, which be­came beau­ti­ful poin­set­tias.

Then in the 17th cen­tury, the Fran­cis­can fri­ars in Mex­ico in­cluded the plants in their Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions. The star-shaped leaf pat­tern is said to sym­bol­ize the Star of Beth­le­hem, while the red color rep­re­sents Je­sus’ blood sac­ri­fice through His cru­ci­fix­ion.

POP­U­LAR SEA­SONAL DÉ­COR Poin­set­tias be­came an in­te­gral part of the Christ­mas sea­son af­ter they were used as pop­u­lar Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.

As early as Oc­to­ber, poin­set­tias start to dom­i­nate some of the lo­cal gar­dens in the coun­try due to its bright red color. Dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties also be­came avail­able.

When vis­it­ing King Louis Plants and Flow­ers in Que­zon City dur­ing the months of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, one can truly feel the spirit of Christ­mas due to the dif­fer­ent and colour­ful va­ri­eties of poin­set­tia which are on dis­play. This is aside from the dif­fer­ent plants and color­ful flow­ers that are on dis­play at Gener’s es­tab­lish­ment—and th­ese are avail­able through­out the year.

Fac­ing page, clock­wise (from far left, top photo): Glitters va­ri­ety; Pres­tige Red va­ri­ety; Ice Punch va­ri­ety; and Pres­tige White va­ri­ety.

Sev­eral pots of dwarf Pres­tige Red poin­set­tia (left photo), as well as other dif­fer­ent poin­set­tia va­ri­eties, are avail­able at King Louis Flow­ers and Plants at the Que­zon Me­mo­rial Cir­cle in Que­zon City dur­ing the months of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

This is one of the va­ri­eties of poin­set­tia which caught the in­ter­est of some of the cus­tomers vis­it­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of Gener in Que­zon City.

The Pres­tige Pink va­ri­ety of poin­set­tia in full bloom at King Louis Flow­ers and Plants.

Fran­cis Gener, the pro­lific poin­set­tia cul­ti­va­tor.

Cross-breed­ing of the plant pro­duces two dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of poin­set­tia like the one shown in pic­ture – pro­duc­ing Glitters and Pres­tige White va­ri­ety in a sin­gle shrub.

Sev­eral pots of the Pres­tige White va­ri­ety ar­ranged on a spi­ral iron stand turn it into a sim­ple Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion.

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