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Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch

Botanical Name

Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch


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 [10]



Vernacular Names


Pohon merah, puring merah [8], denok [9], poinsettia [11]


Easter flower [3], poinsettia, christmas flower, dazzle [8],  christmas plant, chrtistmas star, common poinsettia, eastern flower, lobster plant, Mexican flame leaf, painted leaf, wild poinsettia [11]


Lalpatti [11]


Godong, ratjoon, rajoonan [8]godong ratjoon [9](Java); kastuba, bunga racun [11] (Bali); bunga natal, paitan, pohon merah [8]


Kismas [11]


Pascuas [8]


Tran nguyen [8]


Shôjô-boku [11]


Poinsettia [8] [9]


Feuilles St-Jean [3], euphorbe ecarlate, poinsettia, etoile de noel [8]


Poinsettie, weihnachtsstern [8]


Flor de noche buena [3], flor de pascua, flor de santa catarina [8]


Bandera, bebeta, beteta, catalina, flor de fuego, flor de nochebuena, flor de [11].


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 appears 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 [1].


E. pulcherrima is native to South America and Mexico. As of 1800, it became widely distributed as a Christmas ornamental plant. [6]

Plant Use

E. pulcherrima is largely encountered as ornamentals and is used as festive decoration during Christmas season especially in Europe and the United States [2]. 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 [7].

Toxic Parts

Whole plant contains white latex that may excite skin irritation in sensitive individuals [1].


Diterpene esters is one of the toxic elements in the genus Euphorbia, which cause irritation when ingested [2].However, some reports denied the presence of diterpene esters in E. pulcherrima [3].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 [6].

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 gm/kg for all plant parts tested. Repeated exposures resulted in mild skin irritation and skin photosensitivity in albino rabbits [5].

Risk Management

Eventhough 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.

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 [1].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 [4].

Ingestion of the leaves of E. pulcherrima had resulted in vomiting, salivation, diarrhoea, abdominal tenderness and rarely, pyrexia as observed in cats and dogs [2].


Gastric decontamination using lavage, emesis or adsorbent is only necessary if large amount of the plant is ingested. Otherwise, management is usually supportive, ensuring that the victim is well hydrated [2].


  1. 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.
  2. Campbel A, Chapman M. Handbook of poisoning in dogs and cats. Oxford: Blackwell Sciences Ltd; 2000. p. 54 – 56.
  3. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2007. p. 162 – 165.
  4. D’Archy WG. Severe contact dermatitis from poinsettia. Arch Dermatol. 1974; 109:909-910.
  5. Winek CL, Butala J, Shanor SP, Fochtman FW. Toxicology of poinsettia. Clin Toxicol. 1978;13(1):27-45.
  6. Emergency Physicians Monthly. Erickson T. Holiday Tox Test: Is the Poinsettia Poisonous; 2010 December 7 [cited 2013 May 13] Available from:
  7. Poisettia; c2000-14 [updated 2014 September 8; cited: 2014 September 29]. Available from:
  8. Seidemann J. World spice plants: Economic usage, botany and taxonomy. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2005. p. 152.
  9. Hanelt P, Buttner R. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2001. p. 1224.
  10. The Plant List. Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch. Ver 1.1. c2013. [cited 2014 August 28]. Available from:
  11. 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.

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