Fun fact: 12th December is National Poinsettia Day! It marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
No other flower says Christmas quite like the Poinsettia! Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular, brightly coloured potted plants, particularly during the festive season. They are bound to provide an effective colour in your home decor during and after christmas time. Here are some facts about the beautiful plants we have before us:
The botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima (meaning ‘very beautiful’) was assigned to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow, because he was dazzled by its brilliant bright color.
The poinsettia was introduced to North America in 1825 when the United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, sent several plants back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. William Prescott, historian and horticulturist, renamed the plant ‘Poinsettia’ in honour of Poinsett.
The bright petals of Poinsettias, which look like flowers, are actually the bunch of upper leaves of the plant, called bracts. Poinsettia flowers are small, green or yellow, and grow inconspicuously in the center of each leaf bunch.
Poinsettias are sub-tropical plants and can start to wither if the temperature falls below 10 degrees at night. The day time temperatures in excess of 21 degrees can shorten the lifespan of Poinsettias. In colder climates, they are grown indoors. Poinsettias are commonly known to be one of the most difficult to reflower after the initial display, it takes comitment and hard work! Are you up for the challenge? Poinsettias need a period of uninterrupted long, light-free nights for about two months in early spring in order to develop flowers.
Interestingly, the Poinsettia is native to Mexico. It is found in the wild in deciduous tropical forests at elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala.
The plant was used by the Aztecs to produce red dye & as an medicine to treat fevers, Interesting right?
Today, the flower is known in Mexico as ‘Flor de Noche Buena’, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. This of course is VERY relevant to this festive season. Similarly, in Hungarian, the flower is known as Santa Claus’s Flower as it is used to decorate individuals houses at Christmas time for many years! However, in Spain it happens to be known as the Easter flower.
It all began early in the 16th century where the plant’s association with Christmas began in Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. The crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and grew into beautiful poinsettias.
From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. 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 is also the national emblem of Madagascar.
So, happy national poinsettia day! Maybe, go out an treat yourself this year and decorate your home with these brightly coloured plants!