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January 6, 2019

Flowers: Harbingers of cheerfulness

Islamabad

January 6, 2019

These days when it is raining, cold and gloomy, its nice to see colourful winter flowers growing in the garden; peeping over walls of houses or growing in medians along the roads. They give an immediate lift to the spirit and make you forget the miserable weather for a while. The flowers that bloom in winter are a ‘sight for sore eyes,’ as they say because their bright colours - mostly red and yellow - make you feel cheerful and happy.

Of all these flowers poinsettias stand out because they grow tall; are red and somewhat different from other flowers that bloom in winter. Although they have the reputation of being a delicate plant, in Pakistan it appears to have adapted to the weather and blooms for quite a long period, regardless of how cold it is. These days the poinsettias are ‘alive and blooming’ to turn a well known phrase and will continue well into February or maybe even later, even though the nights turn very cold, which, say the experts, the poinsettias are supposed to hate!

By the way, browsing for information about this colourful flower I discovered that the bright petals of poinsettias, which look like flowers, are actually the bunch of upper leaves of the plant, called bracts - the flowers are small, green or yellow and grow inconspicuously in the centre of each leaf bunch, but I think most of us will still think of the red leaves as the flower! Poinsettias also bloom in cream, lemon, peach, pink colours and with white and gold-splashed leaves but the red are the most popular.

And yes, Christmas has come and gone but here are some interesting facts about the flower. Poinsettias are used in a multiple of ways at Christmas time. They adorn cards; are made into bouquets; the potted variety makes a good gift; they are embroidered on table linen and used on decorative labels etc; giving a lovely look to any home on this festive season. A Mexican legend explains how Poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas. Apparently, a child who could not afford a gift to offer on Christmas Eve picked some weeds from the side of a road. The child was told that a humble gift, if given in love, would be acceptable in God’s eyes. When brought into the church, the weeds bloomed into red and green flowers and the congregation felt that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle.

Information about the poinsettias says they are native to and the most popular of the holiday plants in the Americas. Their botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means ‘the most beautiful Euphorbia.’ They are also known by other names such as ‘Christmas flower’, ‘lobster flower’, and ‘Mexican flame leaf’. The ancient Aztecs (the Mexican Indians) prized the Poinsettia as a symbol of purity. The Mexican poinsettia, known as the Christmas flower in North America, is used in most Christmas decorations, owing to its bright red colour and its blooming coinciding with the Christmas holiday season. For some, these star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem.

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