Welcome to our first article on Florology! Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Poinsettia, the most popular Christmas plant.
Scientific name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Common names around the world:
- Poinsettia (US)
- Flor de Nochebuena (Mexico)
- Flor de Pascua (Spain)
- Crown of the Andes (Chile, Peru)
- Atatürk’s Flower (Turkey)
- Santa Claus’ Flower (Hungary)
National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on December 12th in the US.
The Poinsettia is referred to as the most popular Christmas plant rather than flower because its famously colorful “petals” aren’t petals at all. They’re actually a type of specialized leaf called a bract, and the tiny yellow structures seen at the center of the bracts are the real flowers. You may also be surprised to learn that Poinsettias are classified as a shrub and can grow up to 13 feet tall!
Poinsettias have always been valued for their stunning colors as well as their use in medicine. Native to Mexico, the Aztecs first used Poinsettias to create red dyes and medicine that reduced fevers.
Today, they are known as Flor de Nochebuena, or the Christmas Eve Flower, in Mexico. Americans came to know these plants as Poinsettias thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico and an enthusiastic amateur botanist, who first introduced the plant to the United States in 1825.
The Poinsettia’s association with Christmas began in 16th-century 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. An angel inspired her to gather weeds from the roadside to form a bouquet. When she placed her humble gift in front of the church altar, the weeds miraculously blossomed into the familiar bright red Poinsettias we know today.
There are so many varieties of Poinsettias to choose from — which colors and patterns are your favorite? Tell us in the comment section below!
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