Thursday, November 19, 2009

Plants of Christmas : Poinsettia

Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, ( Family : Euphorbiaceae ) is a species of flowering plant indigenous to Central America. The name ‘poinsettia’ is after Joel Robert Poinsett, the first US Ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

The plants’ association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’s birthday. The girl then was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and become beautiful poinsettias.

Poinsettia is a short-day plant, which means it require a period of uninterrupted long, dark nights in autumn in order to develop flowers, coincidentally the Christmas season. However, the showy red ‘flowers’ are not true flowers. The brilliant red ‘flowers’ are actually modified leaves, call bracts. The actual flower is small yellow at the center of the bracts.

1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Luke 21:1-4
note: info extracted from Wikipedia

Plants of Christmas : Mistletoe

Mistletoe is the common name for a group of hemi-parasitic flowering plants in the order Santalales that grow attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub. Mistletoe bears evergreen leaves that do some photosynthesis, and using the host mainly for water and mineral nutrients. Due to its hemi-parasitic characteristic, it is often considered a pest that kills trees and devalues natural habitats, but was recently recognized as an ecological keystone species. A broad array of animals depends on mistletoe for food and nesting.

According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it was replaced the following Christmas Eve.

According to a custom of Scandinavian origin, any male and female who meet under a hanging mistletoe are obliged to kiss.

Viscum album ( Family : Santalaceae ) is used in Europe, whereas Phoradendron serotinum ( Family : Santalaceae ) is used in North America.

24Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew 7 :24-27

Plants of Christmas : Christmas Trees

Type of trees commonly used as Christmas Tree in Europe and America continent :

Firs : Douglas Fir ( Pseudotsuga menziesii ), Silver Fir ( Abies alba ) , Balsam Fir ( Abies balsamea ), Fraser Fir ( Abies fraseri ) , Grand Fir ( Abies grandis ) , Guatemalan fir ( Abies guatemalensis ) , Red Fir ( Abies magnifica ) , Nordmann Fir ( Abies nordmanniana ) , Noble Fir ( Abies procera )

Spruces : Norway Spruce ( Picea abies ), Serbian Spruce ( Picea omorika )

Pines : Scots Pine ( Pinus sylvestris ), Stone Pine ( Pinus pinea ) , Swiss Pine ( Pinus cembra ) , Colorado Pine ( Pinus edulis ) , Jeffery Pine ( Pinus jeffreyi )

Others : Norfolk Island Pine ( Araucaria heterophylla )

Several other species are used to a lesser extent. In warmer climates such as Malaysia, some species with conical shape and needle –liked leaves can be use as Christmas Tree :

Cupressaceae : Thuja, Juniperus chinensis
Pinaceae : Pinus caribaea
Araucariaceae : Araucaria excelsa
Casuarinaceae : Casuarina, Allocasuarina

The family Pinaceae ( pine family ) , is in the order Pinales and includes many of the wellknown conifers of commercial importance such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, pines and spruces. The distinguishing characteristic is the reproductive structure known as a cone produced by all Pinales.

Pinaceae is the largest family in the Pinales order, consists of some 220-250 species. Other family in Pinales order includes Araucariaceae ( 41 species ), Podocarpaceae ( 170 – 200 species ), Sciadopityaceae ( 1 specie ), Cupressaceae ( 130 – 140 species ), Cephalotaxaceae ( 20 species ), Taxaceae ( 12 – 30 species ) and Phyllocladaceae ( 5 species ).

There are 11 genera(属) in pine family(科), divided into 4 subfamilies(亚科 , base on cone, seed and leaf morphology :

Subfamily : Pinoideae
Genus : Pinus ( pines )

Subfamily : Piceoideae 云杉
Genus : Picea 云杉 ( spruces )

Subfamily : Laricoideae 落叶松
Genus : Cathaya银杉
Genus : Larix落叶银杉 ( larches )
Genus : Pseudotsuga黄杉 ( douglas-fir )

Subfamily : Abietoideae 冷杉
Genus : Pseudolarix冷杉 ( golder larch )
Genus : Abies 雪杉 ( firs )
Genus : Cedrus金钱杉 ( cedars )
Genus : Keteleeria油杉
Genus : Nothotsuga长苞铁杉
Genus : Tsuga铁杉 ( hemlock )