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Monday, 20 March 2017


The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, was originally grew in Mexico.


Poinsettias were used by the Aztecs to produce red dye and as a medication for fever.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning "flower with leather petals" and it was believed to represent the new life that warriors attain in battle.

The name of the plant in Mexico, "Nochebuena" literally means "a good night" in Spanish, but this is also the name that is given to Christmas Eve, so for Mexicans, this is the Christmas Eve flower.

Leaves, bracts, and flowers at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in  India. By J.M.Garg 

The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where a peasant girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, was anxious to bring a gift in celebration of Jesus' birthday to the Christmas Eve service. She had nothing of value, though, so she went empty-handed. On her way to the church she met an angel, who told her to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Miraculously, crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.

Franciscan friars in Mexico started to include the plants in their Christmas celebrations from the 17th century and the Poinsettias became popular decorations for Mexican churches and homes during the Christmas festival.

A red Poinsettia. By André Karwath aka Aka  Wikipedia Commons

The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

The poinsettia - pronounced "poyn-SET-ee-ah" or "poyn-SET-ah" - is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, who served as the USA's first ambassador to Mexico, from 1825 to 1829. During that time he came to admire a shrub with brightly-colored red leaves encircling small, greenish-yellow blossoms, which the Mexicans had adopted as their Christmas flower. He liked it so much that he sent specimens back to the USA, where they soon flourished.

Poinsett grew the beautiful plants in his Greenville, South Carolina plantation and gave them out as gifts to friends.

Poinsettia Day was officially declared by an Act of Congress. It is in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who died on December 12, 1851.


The true flowers of the poinsettia are small and yellow. They are surrounded by much larger, colourful modified leaves called bracts. The bracts turn most often from green to a bright red during flowering, but they can also be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled.

In Mexico, the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that can grow up 12 feet high. In the US commercial growers have bred dwarf varieties that can thrive as potted plants.

Today, the poinsettia is the highest selling potted flowering plant in U.S.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia,, Stl Public Radio

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