The Way I See Things



I know that I'm in danger here of falling foul of my own rule about not blogging Christmas before the beginning of December, but provided I don't mention that this plant has been associated with Christmas since the C16th in its native Mexico, or that (per Wikipedia) each year in the US approximately 70 million poinsettias are sold the six weeks run up to Christmas, at a value of US$250 million, I think I'll probably get away with it. I thought of claiming extenuation on the grounds that it was the only tiny thing I had to hand to photograph for this week's Tiny Tuesday, but that wouldn't actually be true. It certainly came in handy though, on a day when I had approximately ten minutes available for photography, the weather outside was inhospitable, and the light everywhere was Stygian: I just popped the plant down on the conservatory floor, aimed a soft box at it, and rattled off a few frames with my (new and fabulous) RF macro. Job done.

The structure of the poinsettia is quite interesting, I think. Most people know that the red 'petals' are actually bracts, but the flower structure probably isn't as well recognised. If you look at this full-screen, you should be able to see a group of green and red goblet-shaped structures, which are called cyathia. Some of these have opened to allow the protrusion of red stamen filaments, each of which carries a pair of anthers, and is covered with pollen. Hidden deep inside each cyathium is a single female flower. The very distinctive mouth-shaped structure on each cyathium, which starts out green but turns yellow as the flower structure matures, is a nectar-producing gland.

I've learned today that I didn't do myself any favours when I chose a plant that was already in flower: apparently you should look for one which is only just budding, because it will live longer. On the other hand, that wouldn't have made for such an interesting photo - so I'd say it's a swings and roundabouts situation. I will now need to try to nurse the plant on for another month though, and given that the range of conditions they dislike includes excessive warmth, excessive cold, too much light, too little light, being looked at funny, and sarcasm... I'm not holding out any hopes of being able to display it proudly on the Christmas table.

A couple more fun poinsettia facts before I go - which I must, because I'm already late for an appointment with the new series of Borgen. Firstly, it's not as poisonous as it's reputation would have you believe (though I wouldn't personally eat one) - but, being a Euphorbia, it does produce a sticky, irritant sap when damaged. And secondly, it's called a poinsettia because one of the first people to introduce it to the USA, in around 1830, was the first US Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett.

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