Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plant of the Week: Native Poinsettia, Euphorbia heterophylla

National Poinsettia Day, December 12,  is rapidly approaching and was so designated by an Act of Congress in commemoration of amateur botanist and 1st Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett.  He introduced the horticultural species to the Americas in 1828. Of course this is the time of year when we purchase those beautiful horticultural plants for holiday decorations.  But did you know we actually have a native species that is sometimes called Fire on the Mountain, Mexican Fire Plant, Wild Poinsettia, or painted leaf.  Some folks call this a wildflower whereas others, particularly peanut farmers in the south, consider it a weed.  It is considered rare in Kentucky and it was thought to be introduced from the tropics although it is considered native according to the USDA Plants and National Wildflower Websites. This plant, a member of the spurge family, has highly variable leaf shapes from linear to lance-shaped to egg-shaped to lyre shaped and pointed at the tip.  The flowers are quite inconspicuous and are green surrounded by the colorful reddish bracts.  It is an annual that grows from 1 to 3' tall and has a stiff stem that contains a milky, white sap.  The plants can irritate the skin but are not lethal if ingested, although you will get mighty sick with an upset stomach if you choose to nibble on one, something I never recommend for any member of this plant family since so many of them are toxic.  Like most annuals it has an extended flowering period from May through September and is often found in moist, well drained soils in full sun.  This is not a species that would be available in the trade and it certainly could become invasive in certain locations like Florida.  For those that are outdoors in the summer, when you discover this plant you can think of Christmas in July, which is when the photo above was taken.

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