December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
The history of the pointsettia.
The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima
Willd., is a member of the family Euphorbiaceae. The genus Euphorbia
contains some 700 to 1,000 species. It is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 2 ft 0 in–13 ft 1 in. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves.
The poinsettia is a native plant of Mexico and originated in a rather limited region near present day Taxco. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Aztecs of central Mexico cultivated the plant and called it Cuetlaxochitl. Because of its brilliant color, the poinsettia was a symbol of purity to the Indians. It was highly prized by both King Netzahualcoyotl and Montezuma, but because of the high altitude climate, the plant could not be grown in their capital, now known as Mexico City. The Indians used poinsettia bracts to make a reddish-purple dye. They also made a medicine for fever from the plant’s latex. The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic
Today it is known in Mexico as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl 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. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became 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.
Poinsettias were first introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett. While serving as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, he visited Taxco and found the flowers growing on the adjacent hillsides. Poinsett, a botanist of great ability, had some plants sent to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. They did well in his greenhouse and he distributed plants to botanical gardens and to horticultural friends, including John Bartram of Philadelphia. Bartram, in turn, supplied the plant to Robert Buist, a nurseryman who first sold the plant as Euphorbia pulcherrima
, Willd. The name poinsettia, however, has remained the accepted name in English-speaking countries.
Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. You might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
According to WebMD – Poinsettia is a flowering plant. The whole plant and its sap (latex) are used to make medicine.
Despite safety concerns, people take poinsettia to treat fever, stimulate breast milk production, and cause an abortion. They also take the latex to kill pain, kill bacteria, and cause vomiting.
Some people apply poinsettia latex directly to the skin (use topically) to remove hair, treat warts, and heal other skin disorders. It also used topically for toothaches.
Call us today to install your poinsettia plants for the holidays!