Photographed by Bette Jackson
If you are have difficulty playing the audio click here
Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The poinsettia is that lush green plant with large red flowers that was brought to North America by our ambassador to Mexico in the early-1800s. But wait a minute! What we call red flowers are not flowers. The poinsettia's red color is found on modified leaves called bracts that surround the plant's tiny, button-like, yellow-green flowers. Those red bracts only function like the bright pedals of other flowers, helping to attract insects to pollinate the plant. The compact, lush-leaved, multi-flowered poinsettias we see at Christmas are a far cry from the wild poinsettias of Mexico. In South Florida, we find a few that begin to take on the appearance of those original plants. Under natural conditions, the poinsettia is a shrub that ranges from six to twenty feet in height. It naturally has rather long stems with relatively few leaves and flowers. The journey from Mexico to our holiday tables is more than the miles between us and our neighbors to the south. It's a horticultural journey of decades of work cultivating poinsettias and selecting plants for the characteristics we have come to enjoy.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.