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Poinsettias

Everglades Poinsettia --an unusual variant of Fiddler's Spurge, Poinsettia heterophyla, form with long narrow leaves slightly toothed edges, upp.jpg

South Florida is home to at least three native Poinsettias – Painted-leaf, Fiddler-leaf, and Pineland Poinsettia. All are close relatives of our favored winter holiday Poinsettia, which is native to Mexico and parts of Central America. While originally known by both the scientific and common name “Poinsettia” -- to honor the man who sent them back to the U.S. from Mexico, these plants are now known by very different names. Among the things they share are tiny flowers that are clustered together and that have no petals. Leaves that surround those flower clusters typically turn red as the flowers mature, helping to attract insects to pollinate the flowers just as petals do on other plants. It’s those red leaves that attract our (and insect) attention. Florida’s Pineland Poinsettia is an endangered species found only in Miami-Dade- and Monroe-county rocky pinelands. The other two are common through much of Florida and, while admired for their beauty and sometimes deliberately planted, are also invasive exotics -- weeds that reduce production of some crops. All of Poinsettia’s relatives produce milky sap containing latex – and that sap can cause rashes, or if the plant is eaten, can cause a serious reaction or rarely death.