When we think of a festival, we usually have a picture of lights, fireworks and decorated spaces. However, the actual celebration is witnessed in nature as most of our festivals are, in a way, a celebration of a new season, new harvest, etc.
Similar is the case with the Christmas festival, which is just around the corner. One of the main aspects of this festival is the Christmas tree, which is heavily decorated with lights, ornaments, and gifts placed at the base.
In Goa, we usually see the Cook’s Pine or branches of the Australian pine being used as Christmas trees. As pines are evergreen and do not have leaves (they have needles) that shed during the winter season, they were used traditionally as Christmas trees.
Along with this tree, there’s another plant which is found in many Goan homes, and which blooms at this time of the year in Goa. These are the flowers of the poinsettia plant. They are now synonymous with Christmas decorations worldwide. This is mainly due to the bright red bracts of the plant and its green leaves – the primary colours of the Christmas festival.
A SEASONAL BEAUTY
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plant is originally from Mexico. The name ‘poinsettia’ is based on Joel Roberts Poinsett, the US diplomat in Mexico, who had introduced the plant to the US in the 1820s. Thus, December 12 is observed as National Poinsettia Day in the US to commemorate his death.
It is generally believed that the red leaves of the plant are its flowers. However, these red leaves are bracts and the actual flowers are very small. Along with red, poinsettias can also be pink, white, yellow and streaked white on red.
The plant can grow really tall to around 10 feet in height. It is reported that there are around 150 different varieties of poinsettia plants found in the world.
The plant thrives in sub-tropical climates. One should not over water it or expose it to a windy atmosphere. It flowers during the winter season.
One interesting aspect of this plant is that prior to flowering, it needs long, dark nights (this is known as photoperiodism) and bright sunny days, in order to develop those coloured bracts. The plant should be in complete darkness for several days before flowering, otherwise the plant remains green.
Many gardening enthusiasts, and those who love everything Christmassy, indulge in buying the plant at this time of the year. But, it is necessary to know more about this plant before spending a few bucks on them. Also, remember that it is a living being and requires love and care and should not be considered as a mere decorative piece.
They are sold at an expensive rates in plant nurseries at this time of the year. So, many people buy this plant without understanding the requirements for it to bloom well.
Make sure you take ample care, give it the right kind of shade and sunlight for it to thrive and not just survive. Check the drainage of the pot, feed it with compost, regularly check its soil and most importantly, express immense love to it!
So, next Christmas, you may not have to buy a new poinsettia plant as the one you currently have will flower at the right time next year, too, and spread its colour and happiness all around.
In Goa, poinsettia plants are available in almost all nurseries at this time of the year, with prices starting from ₹ 200