Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch

Last updated: 13 May 2015

Scientific Name

Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch

Synonyms

Euphorbia coccinea Raf. [Invalid], Euphorbia diversifolia Willd. ex Boiss. [Invalid], Euphorbia erythrophylla Bertol., Euphorbia fastuosa Sessé & Moc., Euphorbia lutea Alam. ex Boiss. [Illegitimate], Euphorbia poinsettiana Buist ex Giah. [Illegitimate], Euphorbia poinsettii Raf. [Invalid], Pleuradena coccinea Raf., Poinsettia pulcherrima (Willd. ex Klotzsch) Graham. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Poinsetia [2], pohon merah, puring merah [2], denok [3], poinsettia [4]
English oisenttia, Christmas flower, christsmas star, Mexican flame leaf [5], easter flower [6], poinsettia, christmas flower, dazzle [2], christmas plant, chrtistmas star, common poinsettia, eastern flower, lobster plant, Mexican flame leaf, painted leaf, wild poinsettia [4]
India Lalpatti [2], lalpatti [4]
Indonesia

Bungan racun, kastuba [2], Godong, ratjoon, rajoonan [2], godong ratjoon (Java) [3]; kastuba, bunga racun (Bali) [4]; bunga natal, paitan, pohon merah [2],

puring benggala, pohon merah [5]

Thailand Kismas [4]
Philippines Pascuas, rosas de Pascua [2]
Vietnam Tran nguyen [7]
Japan Shojo-boku [2][4]
France Feuilles St-Jean [6], euphorbe ecarlate, poinsettia, etoile de noel [2]
German Poinsettie, weihnachtsstern [2]
Spain Flor de noche buena [6], flor de pascua, flor de santa catarina [2]
Netherlands Poinsettia [2][3]
Mexico Bandera, bebeta, beteta, catalina, flor de fuego, flor de nochebuena, flor de [4].

Geographical Distributions

E. pulcherrima is native to South America and Mexico. As of 1800, it became widely distributed as a Christmas ornamental plant. [8]

Botanical Description

Euphorbia pulcherrima is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. It is a shrub that can reach up to 4 m high. The stems are smooth and green in the growing parts.

The leaves are alternate with varying sizes, shapes, and colours. However, the terminal brightly coloured floral leaves appear to have a whorled arrangement and varies from white to pink to red. The true flowers are borne in terminal, compact clusters and are small and orange in colour. The fruiting pod is 3-celled and shallowly groved; it is about 1 cm long and wide and contains 3 oblong, smooth and tan seeds. The entire plant contains a milky and acrid sap [5].

Cultivation

No documentation

Chemical Constituent

No documentation

Plant Part Used

E. pulcherrima is largely encountered as ornamentals and is used as festive decoration during Christmas season especially in Europe and the United States [7]. The latex is used to remove hairs from the skin. Others claim the plant is useful as an analgesic, antibacterial and emetic. Traditionally it is a remedy for warts and toothache [8].

Traditional Use

No documentation

Preclinical Data

Pharmacology

No documentation

Toxicity

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

The sap of E. pulcherrima is highly irritating to the skin of susceptible persons. Many people have been severely poisoned while cutting and handling the plant [5]. One reported case of contacted dermatitis related that skin irritation began to appear half hour after exposure and this lesion continuously spread throughout the exposed areas of the body. The lesion initially appeared as itching followed by soreness. This is followed by spreading erythema covering hands, arms, chest and shoulders. There were also papules or vesicles appearing on the fifth day. The symptoms finally subsided after 10 days [9]. Ingestion of the leaves of E. pulcherrima had resulted in vomiting, salivation, diarrhoea, abdominal tenderness and rarely, pyrexia as observed in cats and dogs [10].

Side effects

No documentation

Dosage

No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Whole plant contains white latex that may excite skin irritation in sensitive individuals [5].

Toxin

Diterpene esters are one of the toxic elements in the genus Euphorbia, which cause irritation when ingested [7]. However, some reports denied the presence of diterpene esters in E. pulcherrima [6]. The plant’s reputation for toxicity stemmed from a single unconfirmed case fatality of a 2-year old child in early 1900s. This has led to many lay public sources continuing to claim this plant is poisonous to humans. A review of 23,000 exposures reported to the Poison Control System confirms that ingestion of this plant is relatively non-toxic [8].

Toxicological studies on animals did not show overwhelming toxicity of the E. pulcherrima latex in Sprague Dawley rats. Acute oral LD50 of poinsettia in rats was greater than 25 g/kg for all plant parts tested. Repeated exposures resulted in mild skin irritation and skin photosensitivity in albino rabbits [5].

Risk management

Even though E. pulcherrima has been certified as non-toxic, caution should be exercised by individuals known to be sensitive to the latex. It is best to avoid children coming in contact with the plant.

Poisonous clinical findings

No documentation

Management

Gastric decontamination using lavage, emesis or adsorbent is only necessary if large amount of the plant is ingested and ensure the victim is well hydrated [7].

Line drawing

No documentation

References

  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2014 Aug 28]. Available from:http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-81761
  2. Seidemann J. World spice plants: Economic usage, botany and taxonomy. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2005; p. 152.
  3. Hanelt P, Buttner R. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2001; p. 1224.
  4. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. (5 Volume Set). Boca raton, Florida: Taylor & Francis, 2012; p. 1692.
  5. Oakes AJ, Butcher JO. Poisonous and injurious plants of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Washington DC: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1962; p. 45.
  6. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007; p. 162–165.
  7. Campbel A, Chapman M. Handbook of poisoning in dogs and cats. Oxford: Blackwell Sciences Ltd, 2000; p. 54–56.
  8. Emergency Physicians Monthly. Toxicology. Holiday Tox Test: Is the Poinsettia Poisonous; [homepage on the Internet]. c2015. [cited 2013 May 13]. Available from: http://epmonthly.com/article/is-the-poinsettia-poisonous-the-holiday-tox-test-fact-v-fiction/
  9. D’Archy WG. Severe contact dermatitis from poinsettia. Arch Dermatol. 1974;109(6):909-910.
  10. Campbel A, Chapman M. Handbook of poisoning in dogs and cats. Oxford: Blackwell Sciences Ltd, 2000; p. 54–56.