Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Got Mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows up and through and attaches itself to trees, especially hardwood trees like oaks. The roots actually penetrate the branches and suck the nutrients from the tree that hosts it, in some cases damaging the tree to the point of deformity.

There are over 1000 species of mistletoe, but only two that are native to the US. Most grow in more temperate or tropical climates.

Mistletoe is poisonous to humans, but is a food source for birds and other animals.

The Druids considered mistletoe to be sacred and powerful for its medicinal and mystical powers. It has long been considered an aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer.

And why do we kiss beneath it? The reason isn't clear. The practice may be based on ancient tradition that says that if enemies meet under a tree containing mistletoe, they must put down their weapons, embrace and call a truce until the next day.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Poinsettia Care

The first step toward having a healthy poinsettia throughout the holiday season is to choose a healthy one to begin with.

Choose a poinsettia with dark green, healthy-looking leaves that are not damaged or wilted. The actual yellow "flowers" of the poinsettia, called cyathia, should be tight, not fully open. Avoid poinsettias whose colorful red, pink, or white leaves, called bracts, are curled or soft.

Poinsettias do best with 6 hours of natural light per day. Avoid direct sun, hot or cold drafts, and excessive heat. Check the plant daily and water as soon as the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch. Water as much as it takes to have the water come
through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot, but be sure to remove the extra water so the plant does not sit in it after watering. If the plant has been wrapped in foil for gifting, allow the water to drain from the foil after watering.

It is possible, with some effort, to keep a poinsettia and have it bloom again the following year, but the results usually are not satisfactory. Enjoy the plant through the season and into the winter and plan to buy another for enjoyment next year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy National Poinsettia Day!

What? You didn't know there was a National Poinsettia Day? Yep. December 12th of every year. This date was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American botanist who discovered the plant in Mexico in 1828 and sent back cuttings to the US for propagation.

Poinsettia Day was declared in 2002 to honor Paul Ecke Jr, who is considered the father of the modern poinsettia industry.

And quite an industry it is! The growing of poinsettias adds more than $250,000,000 (at the wholesale level, mind you!) to the US economy every year.

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. No deaths due to eating poinsettia leaves have ever been recorded. That said, eating the flowers (which are the tiny yellow centers of the plant) or the colorful leaves might cause nausea and vomiting, and contact with the milky white sap within the stems could cause skin irritation to those sensitive to it. For this reason they should be kept out of reach of pets and small children.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Do you make resolutions for the New Year? And if you do, how long do you usually make it before abandoning them all with a sigh of defeat?

This year, instead of resolutions, I think I'll do some evaluations. Looking back over the past year, what did I do right? What choices did I make that turned out well? What would I like to change about myself, and what would I like to keep the same, or even do better with?

I'm thinking more photography. Less worrying about things I have no control over anyway. More organization. Less procrastination. Trying more interesting recipes.

Uh-oh. These are beginning to sound like resolutions, aren't they?