Finally, it feels like winter.
With all this snow, it is hard not to get in the holiday spirit. Although as I write this article, the seven hours I
just spent moving snow is making it difficult to type, and on days like this, I kind of wish for just a couple hours of
As the horticulture-related questions tend to be few and far between this time of year, I figure I could nip one in the
bud before the holidays come closer.
Are poinsettias poisonous?"
It is true that if you eat enough bracts (the colorful part of the poinsettia) you could get sick. But the kicker is
that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 bracts to surpass experimental doses, and even then toxicity may
not be demonstrated.
I have witnessed my 6-year-old daughter (about 50 pounds) in one day eat six pancakes, consume two bean burritos from
Zia and enough noodles to make any Italian happy. But I feel pretty confident that even if she went to a poinsettia
greenhouse with hunger pangs, she would not be able to, nor want to (trust me, they don't really taste very good) eat
Now don't get me wrong, I am not advocating eating poinsettias. They can still give you, your kids or your pets varying
degrees of discomfort. But the most dangerous part of the plant is probably the plastic pot.
Now because I am in the mood for making horticulture interesting in December, here's another: Has anyone ever wondered
how a parasitic plant that can potentially kill a tree be something that initiates a kiss under a door?
Does anyone else find this strange?
Mistletoe - and here is some irony - can be poisonous and can cause acute stomach pains and diarrhea.
How about that kiss now?
Because mistletoes are parasitic, they derive their nutrients from the plant to which they attach. They propagate by
producing berries that can be eaten by birds and spread through their fecal matter (the Anglo-Saxon definition of
mistletoe about translates to dung-on-a-twig"), or by explosively discharging their sticky seed at almost 60 mph.
Is the romance getting any thicker?
So here is a plant that looks like an evergreen, produces pretty berries visible into the winter and grows without
soil. Sounds magical!
Because of this magical prowess, mistletoe has historically been a plant revered by many and a symbol of peace and
fertility. It was even considered to be an aphrodisiac (now the connection gets clearer).
Early Christians considered the plant to be pagan, but as time wore on, the custom of kissing under this plant of
life" became more popular. Eventually, priests would pass the mistletoe throughout the congregation, encouraging people
to a holy kiss of peace and pardon.
So when someone tries to get you to kiss under the mistletoe, either oblige, or say with 100 percent honesty that you
don't want to get too close to the green thing over the door because you may puke.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is
director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.