Poinsettia - Down
have a colorful history. The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherima)
has become a traditional symbol of Christmas. Long before
Christianity was introduced into the Americas, the Aztec in
Mexico were cultivating the colorful red and green plant. It was
highly prized by Kings Netzahualcyotl and Montezuma, although
for climatic reasons the poinsettia could not be grown in the
capital, which is now known as Mexico City.
addition to its ornamental value, the poinsettia had many uses,
both symbolic and practical, for the indigenous people of
Mexico. Called cuetlaxochitl by the Aztec, meaning "mortal
flower that perishes and withers like all that is pure", it
represented purity and served as a reminder of blood sacrifices.
The plant's red bracts were used to make a reddish-purple dye,
or placed on a person's chest to stimulate circulation. They
were crushed and applied to skin infections. The plant's latex
was turned into a medicine to fight fevers. Today the Poinsettia
has little medicinal applications.
the seventeenth century, Franciscan priests near Taxco found the
plant to be brilliantly colorful and saw that it bloomed during
the Christmas season. They used the flower in the Fiesta of
Santa Pesebre nativity procession.
poinsettia, an Aztec reminder of human blood sacrifices, soon
came to represent the blood of Christ to Catholics and
Christians. Today, the Poinsettia is synonymous with Christmas.
It is the most popular plant in the world. It is even more
popular than the chrysanthemum.
some other fast facts:
Prescott, a historian and horticulturist, was asked to give Euphorbia
pulcherrima a new name as it became more popular. At
that time Mr. Prescott had just published a book called the Conquest
of Mexico in which he detailed Joel Poinsett’s
discovery of the plant. So, Prescott named the plant the
poinsettia in honor of Joel Poinsett’s discovery.
botanical name, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, was assigned
to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow. The plant
grew through a crack in his greenhouse. Dazzled by its
color, he gave it the botanical name, Euphorbia
pulcherrima meaning "very beautiful."
Roberts Poinsett was the first United States Ambassador to
Mexico being appointed by President Andrew Jackson in the
1820's. At the time of his appointment, Mexico was involved
in a civil war. Because of his interest in botany he
introduced the American Elm into Mexico. During his stay in
Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant
species. In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red
flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the
plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South
Carolina. Even though Poinsett had an outstanding career as
a United States Congressman and as an ambassador he will
always be remembered for introducing the poinsettia into the
the early 1900's the Ecke family of southern California grew
poinsettias outdoors for use as landscape plants and as a
cut flower. Eventually the family grew poinsettias in
greenhouses and today are recognized as the leading producer
of poinsettias in the United States.