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Traditional plant helps spread holiday cheer

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’Tis the season for poinsettias. Once called the Holy Night flower for its use in nativity processions in the 17th century, this staple of holiday decor has its own nationally recognized day.

Indigenous to Mexico, the poinsettia is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American physician, amateur horticulturalist and soldier who, in 1828, served as the first ambassador to Mexico. Following his death in 1851, Dec. 12 was established as National Poinsettia Day to honor Poinsett’s accomplishments.

“It’s a traditional plant that signifies Christmas to people,” said Dave Pyle, co-owner of Flowers from the Woods in Columbus. “If you want one, Christmas is the time to have it.”

The novelty plant comes in a range of colors, though the most popular are red, pink and white. It is relatively low maintenance, but even though it’s a cold-weather staple, it doesn’t do well when the temperature drops, so keep it indoors and out of drafts.

“The biggest thing is don’t over water them,” Pyle said. “If they get too much, there’s no recovery for them.”

And that nasty rumor about poinsettias being poisonous? Just a myth, according to the Mayo Clinic.

But, like other household plants, it’s a good idea to keep poinsettias out of reach of small hands and pets.

— Staff reports

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