University of Illinois Extension

Interesting Facts about Poinsettias


No flower says Christmas like the beautiful poinsettia, said Ron Wolford, U of I Extension horticulturist.

Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima. Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.

“Poinsettias are not poisonous,” he said. “A study at The Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. Keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves as eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.” The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).

There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.

The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all poinsettias purchased in the United States and does about 50% of the world-wide sales of poinsettias. For more information about poinsettias, check out the U of I Extension website “Poinsettia Pages” at http://