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If you have seen a poinsettia at Christmas then you have met a member of the Spurge family. The colorful bracts are common in the family. North American members of the Spurge family are succulent plants with milky juice and simple, but varied, leaves. The non-showy flowers are mostly regular and unisexual, with staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers appearing separately on the same plant. (The male flowers may be immediately surrounding the female flowers.) There are 0 or 5 sepals and petals, plus 5, 10, or numerous (up to 1,000!) stamens. The ovary is positioned superior, and consists of 3 (sometimes 2 or 4) united carpels (syncarpous) with the partition walls usually present, forming an equal number of chambers. It matures as a capsule with one seed per cell. The colorful bracts may be mistaken for sepals or petals.
Key Words: Plants often with colored bracts and milky juice.
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