On Monday, we visited a garden centre and couldn’t help noticing the huge number of Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia, plants being offered for sale. It seemed a good time to make a ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ video about this unusual specimen.
I managed to squeeze almost all of what I find interesting about the poinsettia into the timescale but couldn’t make the broader point that I find in its story.
The ‘tradition’ of having poinsettia plants as part of the Christmas displays is actually quite new and it said to have started when members of the Ecke family realised their business of growing and selling poinsettias would benefit from a boost in its popularity. Its use is, therefore, commercially driven.
Obviously, it could be a problem if people were put off buying the plant because of fear of it being a deadly poison and at least some of the research into the plant has been financed by the horticultural industry. It is that work that is often the source of stories denying that the plant is toxic in any way.
And that is the broader point. To me, it is another example of the problem of whose fault is it that the public are given incorrect information. It would be nice to think that the public is intelligent enough to understand that mild toxicity is not a reason for concern and should not lead to the poinsettia being boycotted as an indoor plant. But, suppose it isn’t. Suppose stories about poisonings, though unsubstantiated, are enough to cause people to stop buying the plant.
Is the public lied to by politicians, media and businesses because the liars think it is too stupid to deal with the nuanced truth or is the public simply stupid? Of course, ‘the public’ is not some single consciousness with only one reaction to information so does the need to prevent some people (and I wish I had the confidence to write ‘a few’ rather than ‘some’) from taking information the wrong way justify telling all of us lies?
Perhaps I should join those who say that poinsettia is a deadly poison and add but you, dear poinsettia buyer, have the intelligence and common sense to understand the true nature of the risk and prevent any harmful results.
Here’s the video.
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