Questions about poinsettias, Christmas greenery, & food allergens -, GA News Weather & Sports

Questions about poinsettias, Christmas greenery, & food allergens

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Question: Are poinsettias poisonous?  

Answer: No. Every year this myth raises its ugly head. Poinsettias are safe. You can use them in churches, schools, homes, nursing homes and anywhere else that could use some red, white or pink floral cheer. Buy a poinsettia and enjoy its beauty.

Q: What are some plants I can grow for Christmas greenery and decorations? Do I need to wait until spring to plant?

A: Georgia gardeners have a wealth of plants they can use for Christmas greenery and for other Christmas decorating. Georgia is truly a land of evergreens. However, not all of our evergreens are green, or at least purely green. Some of our evergreen trees, shrubs and vines come in silvery blue, sea green, teal, gold, cream, yellow, bronzy green and purplish green. This allows us to add even more color to our holiday décor. It is enough to make gardeners in other parts of the country green with envy! We also have flowering and berried plants that brighten our winter gardens and our homes. Here are a few possibilities:

Holly Favorites – Four deservedly-popular hollies with lots of traditional Christmas appeal are American holly, Foster holly, Nellie R. Stevens holly and Savannah holly. Yaupon holly does not have the prickly leaves that are part of the holly Christmas legend, but its gray-green lustrous leaves and translucent red berries make it a beautiful choice.

Other Greens – Southern magnolia, waxmyrtle, rosemary, bay, pines, junipers, English ivy (consider variegated and small-leaf forms that are not as aggressive as the regular form), cryptomeria, elaeagnus, red cedar, boxwood, euonymus, English laurel, Carolina cherrylaurel, Leyland cypress, pittosporum and aucuba are a few of the choices that can be used in wreaths, in vases, in church windows and on mantelpieces.

Berried Treasures – Nandina (red or cream), pyracantha (red or orange), possumhaw (red), winterberry (red), liriope (black), and waxmyrtle (silvery gray) are a few possibilities. Possumhaw and winterberry are two deciduous (non-evergreen) hollies native to Georgia that provide loads of berried branches.

Flowers – Depending on the weather, rosemary, camellias, hellebores, paperwhites, snowdrops and laurustinus are among the plants that may be in bloom in Georgia gardens on Christmas Day. You can plant these now as long as the ground is not frozen. All may not be available for sale now, however. Your local nursery or garden center may provide you more suggestions. Consider visiting a botanical garden or arboretum during the winter to learn more and see examples of trees, shrubs, vines and perennials that really stand out in winter gardens.

Q: Why would anyone need to know if a product had been processed on the same equipment, in the same facility or come in contact with a food to which they are allergic? I see these notices about peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, etc. on various candies and snack foods.

A: Slight traces of food allergens can cause severe and life-threatening reactions in some people. Small amounts of some food allergens might not produce a noticeable reaction, but the allergen can cause physical damage to many areas and systems of a person's body. For instance, some people allergic to gluten/wheat can ingest small amounts over a period of time and not have a visible reaction, but the person's digestive system can suffer intestinal damage and malabsorption. Their bodies are unable to absorb nutrients from the digestive system because of the damage done by the allergen.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture participates in the notification to the public of any mislabeling of food products, including omission of any allergen ingredients. Food recall notices can be found on the department's website at with most recent ones listed near the top of the home page.

Source: Georgia Department of Agriculture

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