When we realized we were a day late for National Poinsettia Day, we decided what better way to commemorate this beautiful plant than to share its story!
The Poinsettia, a native to Central America, flourished in Southern Mexico where the Aztecs used the plant for decorative and practical purposes. They extracted the dye from the plant’s bracts and used it in textiles and cosmetics. They also made the milky white sap, known as latex, into a preparation to treat fevers.
It was not until the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), that the Poinsettia came to America. As a lover of botany, Poinsett was immediately drawn to the brilliant red plant and sent some home to South Carolina where he propagated them in 1828. He sent them to friends who also began to grow them, and so on and so on. Among Poinsett’s friends who received these plants was Robert Buist who is believed to be the first person to have sold the plant under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima. It is also believed that the plant acquired the name Poinsettia (to recognize the man who brought it to the United States) in 1836.
Poinsett was honored by Congress as they declared December 12th to be National Poinsettia Day to commemorate his death in 1851. This day was meant not only to honor Poinsett, but to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of this popular holiday plant.
In Mexican culture, the Poinsettia has a very powerful meaning. As legend goes, a poor little girl had no gift to offer to Jesus on Christmas Eve. She was comforted by an angel who told her that any gift, given with love, is enough for Jesus. So she gathered weeds from the roadside and placed them at the altar. Then, before her eyes, the weeds burst into the crimson blossoms of a Poinsettia. It was a Christmas Miracle!
So here’s to the Poinsettia– bringing the Christmas spirit to all who see them!