Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Poinsettias- Poisonous or Not?

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I enjoy bright colors and there are plenty of bright colors at this time of year with Christmas decorations abounding.  One of the bright colors I especially like is the poinsettia, so this week sit back and enjoy the facts I have for your regarding this seasonal plant.  I have shared this with you before but feel it was worth repeating.

I grew up hearing different and negative things about this Christmas plant, especially regarding its toxicity.  I hope to provide you with some fact based information from Extension sources, as well as a bit about the history of the plant in the U.S.
Poinsettias were introduced into the United States by Joel Poinsett.  Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, being appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820's.  Because of his interest in botany he introduced the American elm into Mexico.  During his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species.  In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road.  He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.  Even though Poinsett had an outstanding career as a United States Congressman and as an ambassador he will always be remembered for introducing the poinsettia into the U.S.

According to the Poison Control Information Center, the average person would have to eat 500 to 700 poinsettia leaves before he would have a serious problem.  Of course, some people are more sensitive than others.  So, one leaf may cause some digestive problems for a very sensitive person.  Poinsettias are a member of the Euphorbia family and the white, milky latex sap may cause eye and skin irritations in people sensitive to the sap.  These plants are best classified as "possibly toxic" and not poisonous.  From a study at the Ohio State University it was shown that a 50 pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache.  So, while you may not want to make a habit of eating the leaves of the plant, it isn’t the deadly plant that it is sometimes made out to be.
Enjoy this beautiful flower during the Christmas season, as I do.

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