P&PDL Picture for
December 14-30, 2009

Poinsettia's True Flowers Are Petal-less

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Dept. of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture

The poinsettia's large, showy bracts are often mistaken for petals, but are actually leaf-like structures that form just below the true flowers.  And while the bracts are not actually inside the true flowers, they are associated with the flowering process.  In addition to traditional red, poinsettia bracts can be white, pink, yellow or multi-colored.  At the top and center of the these showy bracts is a cluster of yellow and green (and sometimes red) flower structures called cyathia.  Though the cyathia are without petals, they do contain both male and female flower parts. As the flowers mature, the male structures release their pollen.  Old fashioned poinsettias tended to lose their showy bracts soon after the true flowers were done shedding pollen, but modern cultivars have been bred to retain their bracts for quite a long show.  

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Poinsettia

Poinsettia

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service