Friday, September 18, 2009

Wild poinsettia

Wild poinsettia, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

Wild Poinsettia
Poinsettia cyathophora
Euphorbia or spurge family

Another one of my favorite weeds, Wild Poinsettia grows in moist disturbed areas and pinelands, this one at the bottom of a chain link fence that borders a bike path and the back of a golf course. The golf course used to be a pine flatwoods habitat, and they kept the pines around the edges, but they spray herbicide nearly every year to keep the bike path from getting overgrown. These stands die back, but they return every summer. I’m glad I got to paint them before they disappeared.

The genus name Poinsettia honors Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico.
The species name cyathophora is from the Greek Cyathodes, meaning a small cup or urn, or cup-bearing. I think the flowers do look like a collection of little cups.  It’s related to our beloved Christmas poinsettia, which is poisonous as well, and both have the milky sap that is characteristic of many Euphorbias.

I’ve had a hard time painting this in the past. The red splotches are a peculiar color, depending on the light and the plant. They seem to range from a pale red to a fluorescent red tinged with orange. After seeing Sigrid Frensen’s beautiful orange berries  that she achieved with Opera Rose and Cadmium Yellow, I knew this might be the right color base to try!  It worked well, although the image above seems a little darker than the original.

This sketch on the right is from last year, with the failed attempt at red; the plants were sprayed before I could paint them again so I had to wait until now. This particular plant had the fiddle-shaped leaves often seen, but the leaf shapes (and colors) seem to be highly variable. 

Other common names for Wild Poinsettia are Painted Leaf, Fire-on-the-mountain, Painted Spurge, and Summer Poinsettia.