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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - December 01, 2008

From: Lafayette, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Cross pollination of non-native poinsettia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a poinsettia that I have had for about 5 yrs. that has always flowered red. Last Christmas I was given one that was white. During the summer I put both plants in my green house side by side. This year my red poinsettia appears to be blooming white (it just has started blooming). Is it possible the plants cross pollinated? If so, is there a way to change it back to red next year?

ANSWER:

There is a poinsettia native to North America, Euphorbia cyathophora (fire on the mountain). A member of the Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) family of plants, it is found growing in the wild in Georgia. However, we are sure that what you have are greenhouse propagated and grown plants whose origins are in Mexico and South America. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are all about plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown, but since most house plants are non-native tropicals that can endure the extreme conditions of living indoors, we will try to find some information for you.

Poinsettias are normally considered house plant annuals, used for gifts and then allowed to die. They can sometimes be kept alive a year, but results are often disappointing. Propagation is normally by cuttings, and the plant has been hybridized so extensively that there is really no way of knowing how the white flowers showed up nor whether the flowers will go back to red in the future. This Ohio State University Extension website Poinsettia Care in the Home will hopefully give you some more information.


Euphorbia cyathophora

 

 

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