Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poinsettias Gone Wild

I recently wrote about Christmas Creep in my post about the holiday of Tihar in Nepal. We are not seeing any commercial signs of Christmas at the moment (it is, in fact, 75 degrees and sunny as I write this), and given that until fairly recently this was a Hindu kingdom, I am not sure we will get any.

But I did notice these growing in my neighborhood this week.

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For our readers who may be unfamiliar, poinsettias are a common decoration in the US and other countries during the Christmas season. Because I am used to seeing them in foil planters as part of holiday displays, it was an unexpected surprise to see them growing naturally in Kathmandu, in part because some of the plants had grown about 15 feet high. Who knew they grew that large in nature?

Other things you may not have known about poinsettias, courtesy of Wikipedia:
  • Their association with Christmas stretches back to 16th century Mexico. Legend has it that a poor girl was inspired by an angel to pick weeds as a gift for Jesus. After she presented them at the church alter -- taa daa! -- they sprouted colorful poinsettias.
  • One family used to have a monopoly on American poinsettia cultivation due to a secret growing technique. Then, in the 1990s, a university researcher discovered the trick and blew the doors open to market competition. Occupy Christmas!
This last one blew my mind.
  • The red petals of the poinsettia are actually leaves. Its flowers lack the pizzazz necessary to attract pollinating bees, so brightly-colored leaves developed.
Say what?!

That concludes the first -- and probably last -- horticulture lesson from the Kathmanduo.

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