Poinsettia leaf close-up
© Charles Floyd/Alam
What are we looking at?
On National Poinsettia Day we're taking an up-close look at a poinsettia leaf. Although many people assume the red, white, pink, purple, or marbled colors are flowers, they're actually bracts, a type of leaf that aids in reproduction, usually by turning color as the plant develops true flowers. On the poinsettia, the bracts, surrounding small yellow clustered buds called cyathia, flag down pollinators just as flower petals do.
And while we're talking poinsettias, let's dispel a dark myth about this cheerful holiday plant: They are not fatally toxic to children and pets. Way back in 1971, an Ohio State study determined that a 50-pound child would have to eat about 500 leaves to see any ill effects. Those ill effects? Let's just say they're of a gastrointestinal variety and leave it at that.