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Christmas Time Plants February 17, 2009

Posted by woodtree0587 in Plants/Civilizations.

 The Christmas cactus has always been a magical like plant to the western civilizations when it was discovered in South America is the early 1800’s.

Christmas Cactus Plant


Why the Christmas cactus is called the Christmas cactus?

Something I have always wondered about because it is a cactus, but not in the traditional sense and it seems to me that it is not a plant that is normally associated with the Christmas and winter Holidays. It is really a tropical plant from the Latin American rainforests and is widely available in Brazil. The plant drives from the Cactaceae family and its scientific name is Schlumbergera bridesii. According to Christmascarnivals.com the name came from a 19th century Frenchman named Fredric Schlumberger (hence the genus name Schlumbergera) who collected the cacti and saw that it blooms around Christmas time. Due to much hybridization of the plant the horticulture industry has been able to create the many different colors of the blossoms ranging from dark magenta to bright white.  The colors of the blossoms have been given many different meanings much like roses and how a bouquet of all red roses means “I love you” and a bouquet of red and white roses means “unity.”  The leaves of the cactus are flattened almost stem like with deep notches making it appear as if the leaf had been “glued” together from end to end. The blossoms also look almost orchid like, which brings us back to the fact that it is a cactus but not in the traditional sense.



A very pretty flower which doesn’t really look like it should be coming out of a cactus like plant mainly because most of us are more familiar with the great dessert cactus (which also have gorgeous flowers but don’t look like this).

The Christmas cactus is easy to take care of and to grow if you ever feel the need to grow one. All that simply needs to be done is: of watering and a decent amount of warmth and food ever now and then, but in order to get the plants to flower you should give it more light than it is normally used to because the plant can adapt to low light because of its natural habitat, but more light gives it more blooms. But you must be careful to still have some shade because complete direct sun light could scorch the leaves which is something I’m sure no one wants. Mainly make sure to shade the plant during the months of May through September. It needs well drained soils mainly due to the fact that the plant is an epiphyte, which means the plant lives on other objects (mainly other plants) in its natural habitat. But be sure not to mistake the plant for a parasitic plant which not only live on other plants, but steals all its nutrients from its host plant. The plant is not a true cactus and therefore it is not as drought tolerant as dessert cactus and therefore needs supplemental watering, but DO NOT drowned it in water and make sure that soil is able to drain the water out swiftly. DO NOT allow water to stand in a plate or catch bucket at the bottom of a planter. Either poor out the water at the bottom of the planter or use a turkey baster to remove the water (which is the best way to remove water without disturbing the plant).

This is a short history and an easy way to make a long healthy living plant (some of which are over 100 years old).


Another plant that is seen during the late months of the year is the Poinsettia. Many know this name and like to get at least one for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but what many don’t know is where they come from. Many also know lots of the folklore that comes with these plants, but I am going to make sure that you all know of at least two that are myth.

First off Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulchenima) are native to southern Mexico and Guatemala where they grow as a large shrubs or small trees as seen depicted here:

Poinsettias Natural Habitat


However it wasn’t until the 1930’s when a man named Paul Ecke was able to tame this plant into what we now know as the common Poinsettia bought in our stores. Ecke was born and bred right here in Colorado and is a proud alumni of Colorado State University, as of right now, his grandson Paul Ecke III runs the business and is still a proud breeder of the infamous Poinsettia.

Now to the myths:

1.       Are Poinsettias poisonous to humans?

a.       Poinsettias are not poisonous to humans, small children if ingested can get a stomach ache and they would have to eat at least 50 bracts in order for that to happen, but that is it. An adult would have to eat up to 300+ bracts for them to receive a stomach ache. If there is any kind of “poison” it would be due to the fact that the “sap” inside to plants is a form of latex, therefore if anyone is “poisoned” it is more likely they have an allergy to latex.

b.      However, NEVER ALLOW a cat to ingest any part of the Poinsettia. Poinsettias are poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure within minutes. NOTE* kidney failure in cats due to Poinsettias, won’t always be in minutes it can take time, so it is always best to take your cat to the Vets as soon as you notice that the cat has ingested the plant.

2.       Are the colored parts of Poinsettias the flowers?

a.       Again NO, the colored parts of a Poinsettia are not the flowers. They are called bracts, which are like leaves, but not leaves either. They subtend the small yellow middle of the plant which are the flowers.



There will be more later on myths about plants and plant pathogens.



1. one tree hill - June 24, 2014

It’s actually a nice and useful piece of information. I am glad that you just
shared this useful information with us. Please stay us informed like this.
Thank you for sharing.

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