We might be halfway to Christmas but today marks National Poinsettia Day - the iconic flower that we’ve come to associate with the winter holidays. In honor of its celebration, today we’re sharing a few fun facts on this fiery-hued plant.
December 12th marks the death of Joel Roberys Poinsett, the botanist, physician, and Minister of Mexico who stumbled upon this plant in Southern Mexico and introduced it to the American market.
In Mexico where the plant was discovered, it’s often referred to as La Flor de la Nochebuena or Flower of the Holy Night and is celebrated on December 12th which happens to coincide with the Day of the Virgin.
The poinsettia botanical name is “euphorbia pulcherrima” which translate to “very beautiful.”
The legend of the flower goes: A young girl in Mexico was so distraught over not having anything to honor the Baby Jesus in the Christmas Procession that an angel came to her and told her that any gift given with love with suffice. The young girl ended up gathering up a bundle of weeds alongside the road and had them placed in the manger. The miracle came when she cried at the offering and the weeds transformed into the beautiful red stars we see today.
Originally called Cuitlaxochitl signifying: “flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure’, the Aztecs cultivated this plant as a gift from the gods and often used the sap of the flower to cure fevers.
King Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had such a fondness for the plant that he once had them delivered to him by caravan to adorn his places in what is today Mexico City.
Blood red in color and used as a bright dye, the Cuitlaxochitl served as a reminder of the Gods sacrifices in creating the universe and the debt which would be repaid with human sacrifice.
The flower wasn’t used in Christianity until the 17th century (post conquest) when Franciscan missionaries settled in a small area of southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon. It was here that the legend of the flower might have blossomed and why it’s often referred to as the Holy Night Flower.
Poinsettias are not poisonous to humans however pets may experience physical discomfort should they come into contact or eat the leaves.
The brightly colored parts of the poinsettia that people refer to as flowers are actually called ‘bracts’ which are actually specialized leaves of the plant. The flower part of the plant is actually the yellow clustered buds in the center.
In addition to those previously mentioned, the poinsettia is also referred to as the lobster flower or the flame-leaf flower because of its natural coloring.
They’re most often depicted in bright reds but poinsettias also come in white, pink, burgundy, yellows, apricot, even marbled and speckled.
Today, Poinsettias are the highest selling potted flowering plant.
Although poinsettias are most notably found during the Christmas holidays, they do in fact bloom throughout the year - which makes them great perennials. And despite the fact that the realistic version requires a lot of maintenance throughout the year, an artificial Poinsettia is more convenient! To keep your home ablaze with hints of crimson and wine, opts for a year round arrangement that can easily transition throughout your home - no matter the season.