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Overview: Small tree or shrub up to 4 m tall with few, stout, hairless branches. Leaves: Relatively thin, usually 12–20 cm long with pointed tips. Borne on long, slender petioles (leaf stalks). Flowers: Each tiny, petal-less female flower is surrounded by male flowers in a cup-shaped series of bracts known as a cyathium. Each cyathium bears a two-lipped, yellow gland. The green and yellow cyathia are in turn surrounded by a series of large, bright red bracts. Fruits: Tri-lobed capsules, about 1.5 × 1.5–2.0 cm. Seeds: Ovoid, more or less smooth, pale grey.
Deciduous tropical forest; hot, seasonally dry forest; moist or wet, wooded ravines.
Poinsettia is widely cultivated as a garden ornamental in tropical and subtropical areas and grown commercially as a pot-plant, in particular for sale during the winter period. One of the top-selling potted flowering plants in the USA, poinsettias are the basis of a multi-million dollar Christmas industry. Poinsettias have long been associated with the Christian celebration of Christmas and have been used to decorate altars in Guatemala.