Where are the poinsettia flowers ?

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Sales of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are expected to exceed $26 million in 2015. Those showy red ‘petals’ are really bracts, and even the flowers of the commercial poinsettia are tiny.

The most common native “poinsettia” — Euphorbia cyathophora — is also known as dwarf poinsettia, fire-on-the-mountain, and paintedleaf. The species name of this plant refers to cyathium, the botanical term for the inflorescence of all of the plants in the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, which includes more than 2,000 plants of various sorts including cacti. Plants in this family have a milky latex.

Look closely at the picture above to spot the tiny, white female flower that has no petals (apetalous). Around it are the tiny, yellow apetalous flowers and tiny nectar glands. The cyathial glands of this species are sessile (stalkless) and elliptical in shape. The cyathial glands of the related native fiddler’s spurge (Euphorbia heterophylla) are stalked and round. Identification of these 2 native ‘poinsettia’ species has been confused and is confusing. If you are interested, you can visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for clarification.

Also note the seed capsules that contain 3 to 4 seeds which ‘explode’ to distribute the seeds. This annual plant ‘volunteers’ in a variety of plants and is sometimes is referred to as a weed. Butterflies do nectar at this wildflower, which you can see at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area and many other places.

Paintedleaf is very variable in bract color and leaf shape …
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