Most of the time when I see Poinsettia flowers, I think of the holidays. At first thought the flower feels nostalgic to me. It reminds me of a Winter weekend afternoon in San Francisco visiting family, probably at The Granada or La Scala or somewhere in North Beach for dinner. Dinner started at 3pm – meaning, we all arrive and stay in the bar until 5pm. Us siblings and cousins would run around the bar and color on paper placemats or play dare, while sipping either a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers. My grandma’s friends from “the club” would come too… Here’s where the Poinsettias come in. Each couple would come all dressed for the holidays with chunky jewelry and fake fur. The door would burst open upon their arrival, the only amount of real light shining in the place. Someone would be holding a bright red Poinsettia wrapped in a crushed foil pot. There was either red foil, silver foil, gold foil or blue foil – but all the foil was crushed and thin and for some reason I loved it. The foiled plants would start to pile up on the bar from different people bringing them to whatever friend was working the bar. I don’t know if anyone ever took home those Poinsettias or if they just stayed at the bar. Poinsettias are the Maraschino Cherry of the ornamental plant world – so who knows, they could still be there.
Now my experience with Poinsettias is different. I think of the agribusiness industry. I think of it’s family, Euphorbiaceae. I think of bracts and the sticky sap that comes whenever you clip any part of it away.
This week I learned some thing new; traditionally Poinsettia leaves are used to increase the flow of mother’s milk and to relieve swollen breasts. The number 9 is an auspicious number in Mayan communities and it’s said that if you braid 9 wild poinsettia plants in a necklace and wear for 3 days, the necklace will relieve body pain. They are incredibly toxic if taken internally.