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The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

The poinsettia is probably known as one of the plants with the worst press surrounding it. It is often contributed to being extremely poisonous. But the thing is, there is nothing wrong with it. So what is this holiday classic, and what is the science behind it?

Physical Description and Behavior

The poinsettia is a beautiful house plant that commonly decorates houses during the winter months. This is because they change from green to yellows and reds during this time of year. Granted, this plant needs to be in darkness for 14 hours a day to actually change its color. This shrub can be 2 to 13 feet tall, with long leaves up to 6 inches long.

Stories about the toxicity of this plant have been circulating since 1919 when an urban legend mentioned that a young boy died by consuming a single leaf. This single legend has caused multiple more scientific sources to pick up this claim, even without evidence. This includes the US Food and Drug Administration in the 1970s.

Studies have been done on the Poinsettia, feeding rats the equivalent of 500 leaves and finding no poisonous effects. The worst that can happen as a result of this plant would be nausea and diarrhea. Some people may experience a rash if touched. But it is not deadly.

Habitat and Location

These plants are native to Central America, ranging from Southern Guatemala to Mexico. They seem to be found near dry tropical forests.

Due to the fact that they are so common, they do not seem to have any risk of going extinct. This is why they are not protected under Mexican law.

You can check out some facts about this plant by viewing the video below:

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