flaming red poinsettia, the flowering plant for this season of love, joy, and cheer
This flowering plant with its large leaf-shape bracts in colors of red, white, or pink; with a yellow pistil in the center of the colored bracts makes a beautiful Christmas decorations around the house. The actual flowers, or cyathium of the poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are the clusters of yellow cup-shaped structures that are located in the center of the colorful bracts. The flowers have both male and female reproductive organs and have no fragrance to attract pollinators. The showy red bracts serve that purpose and attract the insects to the poinsettia. When the flower detects a visitor, the cyathium glands ooze their nectar to lure the insects onto the surfaces of the flowers. The pollen from the flowers is transferred by the insects as they move from plant to plant feeding on the nectar.
the real flower of the poinsettia
close-up view of yellow flowers, or cyathium
The flaming colors of the bracts can be accelerated by placing the plant in total darkness for a period of time. This method is called “photoperiodism.” There are so many wonderful facts and stories written about this traditional Christmas plant, and the list is endless. Did you know that December 12th is Poinsettia Day?
With all the characteristics about this plant, I was interested to find out if the plant is a good source for contact printing. I was in luck, a local store was having a sale last week. I bought a few to decorate the house and a few more to experiment with. I am convinced that the green bracts will give some color; and the red bracts will need a modifier (iron water), in order to print.
For this experiment, I took a branch and dipped the plant in an iron solution (made from rusty objects), before I placed it on a piece of wet silk. Then the fabric, along with the plant material was bundled up tightly with strings, and left in simmering water for about 2 hours. I let the bundle sit overnight in the pot before I opened it the following day to see the results of my experiment. I am happy with the results as it does what I had predicted. Below are results and pictures from this experiment and I am happy to share. I would be back next year, happy holidays!
leaves and bracts of the bloom on wet silk
before and after
dark colored and no more red, a result from the iron solution
anxious to see the magic underneath the leaf
peeling the surface to reveal the result
a lovely stained leaf print in hues of green and speckled grayish brown on veins
dark charcoal prints in center (red bracts), a result from iron oxide in the iron solution that reacts with the tannin in the plant materials
A special note: unlike mistletoe and holly, which are highly dangerous plants; poinsettia is not deadly poisonous–but it could still cause an upset stomach if consumed. The milky sap from the plant may be harmful to people with allergies and sensitivities.
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