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Social Issues


They're beautiful but misunderstood
You probably don't want these leaves in your salad, but they wouldn't hurt you
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Poinsettias are widely used as Christmas decorations in the United States, but unlike holly, mistletoe and lighted trees, they didn't come into the American tradition from Europe
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Poinsettias are very popular this time year as holiday decorations.  But, WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports that the velvety red plants are also believed by many to be something they’re not…in fact, several things they’re not.    

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First: they’re not poison. My grandmother, like generations of grandmothers, feared that I as a toddler, my kids as toddlers, puppies, kittens—any innocent given to gnawing things—would eat poinsettia petals and die. 

Robert McMahon of the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster:

“Poinsettias are indeed not poisonous.  And, people have actually eaten leaves as an experiment.  If I remember correctly you would have to eat several hundred to become sick.  You would die.  But, poinsettia leaves do not taste very well and I don’t think you’d want to eat several hundred; and that also applies to pets.”

Nor are poinsettias, like mistletoe or lighted trees, old Christmas traditions from Europe.

“Poinsettias are actually native to Mexico.  And the poinsettia was introduced into the United States back in the 1800s by the United States Ambassador to Mexico at that time, Joel Poinsett. “

"And, those rich red petals aren’t…petals: they’re leaves called bracts. The tiny, yellow, berry-looking things at the CENTER of the bracts are the petals."

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