This is the time of year when greenhouses, malls and Christmas displays boast the colors of red, white and pink of the beautiful poinsettia flower. Here are a few fun and interesting facts about poinsettias to dazzle your friends and associates this holiday season should you be digging for light conversational topics –
- Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were introduced to the USA, and consequently North America, by a gentleman named Joel Roberts Poinsett. Joel was a man who packed a lot of living and learning in his life, botany being one of his passions. Upon an envoy to Mexico right around Christmas time, he noticed and fell in love with the brilliantly colored beautiful flower and introduced it to the US.
- Poinsettias are of the Euphorbia family, related to Euphorbia polychroma, the wonderful spring blooming (and our zone hardy!) Cushion Spurge with its luminous yellow color.
- The scientific Latin name for poinsettias is Euphorbia pulcherrima, meaning the most beautiful Euphorbia.
- Poinsettias were also called ‘Painted Leaf’, and ‘Mexican Fire Plant’.
- The common name of this Christmas flower was dubbed ‘Poinsettia’ in Joel Poinsett’s honor.
- All Euphorbias have a milky white sap that is now called latex. This sap can be irritating to skin but it is not toxic. Back in the day in Mexico, this sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers.
- In Mexico, poinsettias were also used to make purple dye for clothing and cosmetics.
- The original colors of poinsettias were just red or white.
- The colored leaves of the poinsettias are called bracts and are not the flowers. The real poinsettia flowers are the yellow colored blossoms in the center of the bracts. The colored bracts attract pollinators.
- There is a wonderful Mexican story centered around a little girl named Pepita that who has no gift to bring to a nativity in her church that speaks of this beautiful flower.
A Fun Folk Talk About Poinsettia
A poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. Her name was Pepita and as she walked to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, she felt ashamed and saddened. “I am sure, Pepita, that even the humblest gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes,” her cousin Pedro told her, in an effort to reassure her.
Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the modesty of her contribution. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she entered the small village chapel.
As she approached the altar, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the humblest gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.
No sooner did she place the flowers at the alter than they burst into blooms of brilliant red! They were the most beautiful cherry-red blossoms Pepita had ever seen. All who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their very eyes.
From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season and thus, the legend of the poinsettia was born.
To this day, millions of poinsettias are purchased around the holiday season. The most common poinsettia colour is red, accounting for three quarters of all poinsettia sales worldwide. But did you know poinsettias also come in white, pink, orange and cream colours? It’s true!
Interested in learning more about this seasonal wonder? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Perfect Poinsettia Care!