Greenhouses in full bloom

By Lorna Hart -

A sea of red poinsettias awaits shoppers at Norris Greenhouses in East Letart.

EAST LETART, Ohio — Stepping into Darrell Norris & Son Greenhouses in November is like stepping into an ocean of red, sprinkled with pink and white.

The senses are almost overwhelmed with the site of row upon row of poinsettias in colors from the traditional red to pink and white.

Recently awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Meigs County Chamber of Commerce for their efforts at successfully expanding and growing the seasonal flower business and creating new jobs for the area, Darrell Norris & Son Greenhouses have been able to successfully grow what can be a challenging greenhouse crop.

The more than 50,000 rooted poinsettia cuttings arrive in trays and are transplanted into pots.

“This is the only plant we sell that is not grown by us from seed,” Norris said.

The newly transplanted cuttings can receive no light for a month, and then must have their tops “pinched back” several times to encourage growth.

The plants, native to Central America, are sensitive to cold, and care must be taken to regulate temperatures during growth and transportation of the mature plants for distribution.

Often referred to as the Christmas flower, the traditional bright red leaf-like blossoms with yellow center have been used in decorating since they were introduced in the United States in the mid 1800s.

The poinsettia’s botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, and belongs to a large species of plants in the Euphorbiaceae family. There are at least 2,100 species in this family, making it one of the most diverse groups of flowering plants on the planet.

Indigenous to Central American, these plants bloomed from October to mid-May and were known to the Aztec as cuetlaxochitl, meaning “Flower that withers, flower that perishes, like all that is pure.”

The Aztec Empire was a collection of city states that spread from central Mexico to Central America. The empire had its beginnings in AD. and lasted until the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s.

Beautiful botanical gardens that included poinsettias existed throughout the empire. With the defeat of the Aztec by the Spanish, the botanical gardens ceased to exist, but the poinsettia continued to grow wild and remained a regional plant, largely unknown outside of Mexico.

It was not until Joel Roberts Poinsett became the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in 1825 that the plant was introduced to the U.S.

Poinsett had attended medical school, but his real interest was botany. While visiting the Taxco area of Mexico in 1828, he noticed the brilliant red blooms. He began propagating the plants in his hothouses at his home in South Carolina and sending these flowering plants to friends and botanical gardens.

One of the recipients was John Bartram, who gave the plant to another friend, Robert Buist, who was a Pennsylvania nurseryman and is thought to be the first person to have sold the plant under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima.

Poinsett promoted the flower throughout the South as a symbol of Christmas, making a small fortune with his efforts. He also introduced the plant to the the National Association of Science, which later became the Smithsonian Institute.

Around 1836, it began to be called poinsettia, in recognition of Poinsett, the man who first brought the plant to the United States. Congress declared Dec. 12 as National Poinsettia Day to honor Poinsett and encourage people to enjoy the beauty of the popular holiday plant.

There have been lots of changes to the poinsettia since its introduction in the 1800s. The plants now come in many colors with names such as Prestige and Christmas Day, Marble Star and Jingle Bells. Shoppers have a variety of colors to choose from when they make their selection at Norris Greenhouses on 24020 Hill Road.

These poinsettias won’t be available long; the demand for these well-cared for plants is high, and they have already begun their departure to homes and stores across Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky for the beginning of the holiday season.

Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551.

A sea of red poinsettias awaits shoppers at Norris Greenhouses in East Letart. sea of red poinsettias awaits shoppers at Norris Greenhouses in East Letart.

By Lorna Hart