Following refreshments by hostess Nancy Williams, stories of poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and rosemary were shared by Pam Martin from the Wetlands and Wildlife Education Center with 11 members of Great Bend Garden Club at their December meeting.
Poinsettias were named after and discovered by Joel Poinsett who was a botanist and an American ambassador to Mexico in the 1820s. He brought the plants back when he returned. The bright red leaves are called bracts and the group of tiny flowers in the center area are a combination of the yellowish stamens and pistols required for reproduction. They are often pollinated by hummingbirds and insects. The poinsettia is a member of the spurge family and contains a milky sap that is mildly toxic. The plant needs to be kept at a temperature of about 70 degrees and lightly watered. Some have had success in keeping them over winter by pruning them back and at some point keeping the new growth in 12 hour darkness for five days and then in bright sunlight to turn the green bracts red. Poinsettias now come in a wide variety of colors, even an orange one for Thanksgiving.
English holly plants grow pretty white flowers on the female shrub/tree. But they require a nearby male plant for cross pollination to produce the highly toxic red berries. The leaves have waxy, prickly leaves to prevent dehydration and to protect from predators.
Mistletoe also needs a both a male and female flower. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on the branches of trees, burrows deep into the center of the tree for water and nutrition, and will eventually kill the tree if not removed. Mistletoe is also mildly toxic for small animals but can be eaten by animals like elk. There is a mistletoe that grows on a dwarf oak tree that, when disturbed, will shoot it’s seeds as a speed of 60 miles per hour for 50 feet or more.
Rosemary was used during the pagan celebration of the winter solstice as a sign of life and now is sometimes used as a symbol with the Virgin Mary as a sign of life by Christians at this time of year. It also has culinary and medicinal value.
Following a business meeting, the members of Garden Club had a luncheon at Flavored Celebrations prepared by Kat King.
The next meeting of Garden Club will be at 10 a.m. on Jan. 16 at the Cottonwood Extension Service meeting room. The program will be by Cottonwood Extension Agent Alicia Boor on taking soil samples. Hostess will be Sharon East. Visitors are welcome.