Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - or not, Poinsettia

Sorry TPP has been ridiculously busy and ignoring his blog.  At any rate a friend stopped by with a very nice, a very traditional holiday decorative plant, a poinsettia.  She remarked about how many great big flowers the plant had, which is nice, but they aren't what many people think.  Poinsettia is a cultivar of Euphorbia pulcherrima, a member of the spurge family.  Most members of this very diverse family have small, unattactive, unisexual flowers, and poinsettia is no different.

Remember how flowering plant advertise their flowers, usually via a conspicuous display.  If your flowers are small and unattractive, cluster them together or put something very attactive right next to them.  Or do both.  Here is a typical poinsettia flower, and what you actually notive are large, red bracts, leaves associated with flowers.  In the center are several clusters of unisexual flowers sometimes, usually with several pollen producing "male" flowers and one or more pistillate "female" flowers with a big yellow nectary on the side.  So there are lots of flowers there, but unless you focused on the "stuff" in the center, you got the flower quiz wrong.  BTW TPP really doesn't like the odd colored or sparkly tarted up poinsettias.  

1 comment:

Katherine Wagner-Reiss said...

Wow, love that photo showing the nectaries on the female flowers.
While other people are at holiday parties drinking eggnog, I'm going to be
checking out the poinsettias, trying to identify the small male and female flowers!
Thank you for pointing them out.