Poinsettia Facts!

The arrival of poinsettias always means we’re into the festive season!  Their bright red leaves are instantly recognisable and have come to signify Christmas time here in the UK. But did you know that the plants are actually native to Central America?

We’ve pulled together some facts about this very popular Christmas plant;

  • Ancient Aztecs used the flowers to make a purple dye for clothes and cosmetics and the milky white sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers
  • The poinsettia was made famous by a man called Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was the first Ambassador from the USA to Mexico in 1825. Poinsett had some greenhouses on his plantations in South Carolina. When visiting Mexico he was fascinated by the plants and sent some back to his home in South Carolina and began growing them and sending them to friends and botanical gardens.
  • They were first sold as cut flowers at a flower show in Philadelphia
  • In the early 1900s they began to be sold as whole plants for landscaping and pot plants.
  • It is believed that they became known as Poinsettia in the mid 1830s when people found out who had first brought them to America from Mexico.
  • The Poinsettia is also the national emblem of Madagascar.

There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas became intertwined.*

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”

Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red coloured leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

So now you know!

*Source – whyChristmas.com