The top photo of the plant with white bracts called euphorbias. You can see the resemblance to the Poinsettia on the bottom photo..in fact, the Poinsettia’s scientific name is the Euphorbia pulcherrima.
The Poinsettia also belongs to the Euphorbia family of plants. Did you also know the Poinsettia species is related to the Para Rubber Tree that produces 99% of all the world’s rubber? If you didn’t know too, read on the excerpt from the Japan Times feature below…
|Poinsettia — what is it, then, that is pursuing me?|
|By Kazuko Mukasa (b. 1924), quoted in “A Hidden Pond, Anthology of Modern Haiku,” translated by Koko Kato and David Burleigh (Kadokawa Shoten)|
Most of us are rushing around at this time of year, and many of us are wondering why. If you have a poinsettia, why not pause for a moment and admire its rich, velvety leaves. In its native Mexico, Euphorbia pulcherrima is no short-lived pot plant but a magnificent, branching shrub with a scarlet crown. The euphorbia or spurge family of plants contains more than 7,000 species, and all produce a white rubbery sap. The sap of one species, Hevea brasiliensis, known as the para rubber tree, actually produces 99 percent of the world’s natural rubber! Spurges are also known for their unusual bracts and flowers. Normally bracts are small, leaflike structures that hide behind the flower, but in spurges it is the other way round. On the familiar Christmas poinsettia, for example, the tiny flowers have no petals at all and rely on the bright red bracts to attract insects. The plants were named after a first-century Greek physician, Euphorbius, doctor to the king of Mauritania. Euphorbius was a strong believer in the medical powers of this milky sap. In recent years, scientists have confirmed that certain spurges have healing powers. For example, the common milkweed, E. peplus, seems to help in the treatment of skin cancer. But be careful how you handle your Christmas poinsettia, because far from healing your skin, its sap can give you a rash.
By Linda Inoki
The Japan Times: Dec. 21, 2005