Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
How Poinsettias Flowered Into an American Favorite
Poinsettias are the best-selling potted flowering plant in the United States and, they are a traditional part of Christmas celebrations. That is why almost all of them are sold in the wintertime.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans bought $250 million worth of poinsettias last year. The poinsettia is native to Central America and needs warmth to grow. Bright red poinsettias are the best known. But there are about 100 different kinds, in colors including white, pink, yellow and purple. The flowers of the poinsettia are very small. Around the flowers are colorful leaves called bracts. These bracts are what give the plants their beauty.
The poinsettia is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett from South Carolina. In 1825 President John Quincy Adams appointed him as the United States' first minister to Mexico. He saw the colorful plants growing in the wild there. He liked them so much that he sent some cuttings back to the United States.
People who are allergic to the latex produced by rubber trees can develop a mild skin rash from poinsettia plants. Babies and pets that chew on the plants can get sick. But experts say the plant is not as poisonous as some people think. Then, there is the question of how to say poinsettia. Do not be surprised if you hear someone say "poin-set-uh." Both pronunciations are common.
In the 1920s, Albert Ecke and his son Paul became interested in the poinsettia's ability to flower in winter. Paul Ecke thought it would be a good plant for Christmastime. They started a farm in California. Today, Ecke Ranch remains a major supplier to the United States and the world.
For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman . (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 18Dec2012)
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