KINGDOM: Plantae ORDER: Malpighiales FAMILY: Euphorbiaceae GENUS: Euphorbia SPECIES: Euporbia pulcherrima The poinsettia is the ubiquitous symbol of the holiday season. Here at scienceismyspecialty.com we see the beauty of the poinsettia but we also like to explore the science (and the history) behind the plant. First, a little history. The first Ambassador to Mexico, appointed by president John Quincy Adams, was named Joel Robert Poinsett. In 1828, while wandering in the Mexican countryside, Poinsett found a beautiful red shrub growing near the road. He took cuttings and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. He propagated these cutting, and the plant has become synonymous with the holiday season. We now use the name poinsettia to describe the plant, in the Ambassador’s honor. The poinsettia’s red leaves are actually that: leaves, not flowers. The flowers are the little yellow buds inside the leaves. If you live in a cold climate, make sure the plant it is wrapped properly for the trip home from the store. I recently purchased one in a grocery store and there were large plastic bags near the plants. I used one to wrap my plant, because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes, can damage the leaves. Poinsettias should be kept away from cold and warm drafts, and ideally daytime temperatures of 60°F-70°F are best. (55°F at night). Be sure to check the soil daily, and it is a good idea is to punch holes in the foil so water can drain into a saucer.