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Chicago gardeners, one of the loveliest decorations of the Christmas holidays is the stunning poinsettia. As a solitary bloom in a miniature pot or as a multi-floral presentation, it expresses the Christmas season and is second only to a Christmas tree.

Poinsettia belong to the botanical family EUPHORBIACEAE. This family of 2,000 species consists of annuals, biennials and perennials. Members of this family are deciduous, semi-evergreen or evergreen sub-shrubs, shrubs, trees and even succulents. They enjoy temperate, subtropical and tropical zones and are native to Central America. Their common name is milkweed or spurge.

The poinsettia species of this botanical family is named E. pulcherrima, commonly called poinsettia, spurge or Mexican flame leaf. The plant is open, erect or spreading with flowers borne either singly or in a variety of cluster forms. The medium to dark green leaves range from oval to lance-shaped and are 6 inches long. The leaves can be lobed or toothed and are short-lived. The plant has many cultivars with blooms of red, pink, salmon pink or white. The flowers bloom in winter and can grow to 12 inches across.

In Chicago, poinsettia are grown indoors and/or in a greenhouse. In subtropical or tropical zones, they are suitable in rock gardens, as a shrub border or as a woodland garden.

If you display poinsettia, you need to know that all parts of the plant cause severe upset if eaten. Also the milky sap may cause skin irritation. Most pets will avoid this plant instinctively. However, babies and children need to be watched around poinsettia. If you are concerned about the dangers, display only artificial poinsettia.

Decorate your home with showy poinsettia throughout the holiday season. Choose live plants or realistic, artificial reproductions.

Live long and well—garden.

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