Poinsettia Palimpsest

Just back from Israel, where successive peoples and religions have let so many constructions rise and fall that only a professional eye can perfectly distinguish the layers in stone. The plant situation is similar. I found this enormous poinsettia in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, growing in the gardens of  the Basilica of the Annunciation (a Catholic church built in 1969 on the remains of a 5th century Byzantine church, built around the original grotto of the Annunciation, and including the vestiges of a 12th century Crusader church, next to a traditional Jewish mikvah…).

Poinsettia’s are native to Mexico, and the busloads of Latin American pilgrims must have thrilled at the sight of their indigenous bush growing in the Holy Land. Poinsettias were brought to Egypt from Mexico in the 1860’s and somehow made their way up to Galilee. Part of the Euphorbiaceae family, they are perennial flowering shrubs that can grow up to 10 feet tall in the right climates. In the USA, they are THE Christmas plant, and account for 85% of all potted plant sales in December.

The red “petals” are in fact modified leaves, as the actual flowers are simply the yellow growths in the center of each “bloom”. It would be fantastic to have a large poinsettia as an alternative to a Christmas tree–no decorations necessary.

Happy December 1st,



~ by lisacwhite on December 1, 2009.

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