TSU shares Poinsettias, Christmas Cactus

Sarabjit M. Bhatti, M.S., TSU Research Associate

Every year poinsettia lovers from across the Nashville community make their way to the TSU Agriculture Research and Education Center to receive a gift of the official Christmas flower.

Sponsored by the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, the 10th Annual Poinsettia Open House was held on Friday, December 14 for seven hours, at the Main campus greenhouse, located on Ed Temple Boulevard.

During the Open House, according to Sarabjit M. Bhatti, the research associate in charge of the project, “more than 20 cultivars of poinsettias from commercial breeder Ecke Ranch were on display.” Ms. Bhatti said the school has been most successful in the research related to Poinsettias.

Graduate school student Leslie Lacey, a six generation farmer, was very excited about the work that was being done with the Poinsettias. She said it was amazing how the colors of the plant are affected by the light. “The smallest ray of light can pierce the darkness; and cause a great delay in the leaves turning from green to red,” said Lacey.

The research included twenty varieties of Poinsettias, including the Enduring Red, which is one of the more popular varities. There were 700 clippings used in the development of the project, with a growing cycle of from five to six months.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where they can grow to be a large shrub, often reaching heights of up to 10 feet. The colorful part of poinsettias, what is often mistakenly called the flowers, are actually modified leaves known as bracts. The true flowers are the small little yellow and green structures in the center of the plant.

Hillery Parks said he comes every year to be a part of this program. “I come every year, because the people work very hard with this program.”

Guests also had the opportunity to participate in a Christmas cactus workshop. Dr. Arvazena Clardy, assistant professor of Horticulture said that they were very happy to be a part of the days activities. She said many smaller farmers need to extend their planting season. “I have a grant with small and limited income farmers,” she said. “They basically make less than $25,000 a year.” Presently. according to Clardy they are working with African American females farmers in thirteen counties.

Clardy said that growing Christmas Cactus will allow them to supplement their income. “Last year,” she said, “we looked at various slow release fertilizers that would allow less product to be used.”

She said they are presently looking at the short day. She said that the plants have to be in continual darkness or their blooming cycle will be interrupted.