Its Latin name is Euphorbia Pulcherrima. Euphorbia pulcherrima (literally, "the most beautiful Euphorbia") also known as the “Flor del Noche Buena” in Mexico, or the “Flame Leaf” in Central America is a favorite of all of the Americas at Christmas.Its Mexican monikers include the ancient Nahuatl term Cuitlaxochitl (star flower), along with Catarina (Catherine), Flor de Pastor (Shepherd's Flower) and, most commonly, Flor de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Flower).
In the English-speaking world this illustrious holiday bloom is called the Poinsettia, named after Dr. Joel R. Poinsett, a U.S. diplomat who served as Minister to Mexico in the 1820's. Like many newcomers to Mexico, he was no doubt enthralled by the sight of the gargantuan shrubs covered in mid-winter with brilliant vermillion blossoms. After experimenting with various methods of propagation, he returned home to Charleston, South Carolina with enough cuttings to begin the cultivation of these stunning plants in northern climes.
There is also a wonderful legend in Mexico as to how the flower became used to celebrate Christmas.
It is said that a poor young peasant girl in Mexico on her way to celebrate Christmas at church followed scores of people carrying brilliant gifts to honor baby Jesus, but suddenly felt embarrassed because she had no gift to give.
The little girl so desperately wanted to give something of great value and when she could think of nothing, she began to cry.
Some people say that a friend of the little girl saw her crying and went over to console her. The little girl confessed that she had nothing to give and her friend told her that any gift from the heart would surely be appreciated.
Others say that an angel appeared and told the young girl to pick a bouquet of weeds from the roadside.
Either way, the girl picked a handful of weeds from the roadside and continued to church. At church people lined up to place extravagant gifts at the foot of the nativity scene. People looked at the little girl in disbelief as she placed her weeds near the manger.
Suddenly the weeds transformed into beautiful red flowers, and everyone who witnessed the gift swore they had witnessed none other than a Christmas miracle.
Each year at Christmas time, beautiful red poinsettias bloomed on the roadside. People began to spread word of the miracle witnessed, and the red flowers were called 'Flores de Noche Buena' - Flowers of the Holy Night.
The story of the poor peasant girl is told each year in Mexico, inspiring all that a gift from the heart is the most precious gift of all, and even the simplest of things can be great.
Among pre-Hispanic tribes of ancient Mexico, the Cuitlaxochitl was more than just a pretty face. The plant was originally used by the Aztecs. The sap from the plants bract was used to reduce fevers and to make a reddish-purple dye. It is said that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec Kings brought the flowers from Southern Mexico in caravans to Mexico City because it would not grow at the higher altitudes.
Care of Poinsettias whether you live in Mexico or some place else!:
To check the maturity of a poinsettia plant, look for yellow pollen on the true flowers. The flower of the poinsettia is found at the base of the colorful petal-like bracts. Flowers that are green or red and fresh looking will last longer than ones with yellow grains of pollen on them.
The poinsettia you buy for Christmas, and yes, even in Mexico, they are starting to appear, was grown at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F, with high humidity and as much sunshine as possible in the greenhouse. You will need to simulate these conditions as much as possible to ensure the plant lasts for a long period after your purchase. You will want to place the plant in a well-lighted location free from drafts and extremes in temperature. Make sure that the outdoor poinsettia receives only natural sunlight. Any additional light from yard and street lights will inhibit blooming.
Indoors, keep the plant from touching cold windowpanes. Poinsettias thrive in bright but not direct sunlight. It should have at least six to eight hours of direct natural or artificial light and placed in a window facing south, east or west. If possible, keep the plant with other plants or place the pot in a gravel-filled pan with water. This practice will keep the humidity a little higher around the plant in an otherwise dry, winter home.
Examine the plant on a regular basis for watering. When the soil surface feels dry to the touch fill the pot to the top with water and allow it to soak in until the excess begins to drain out the bottom. Do not leave the pot setting in a pool of water. Over watering will damage the roots and will result in wilting or leaf problems (turning yellow and dropping prematurely). Insufficient light, drafts and lack of nitrogen may also cause the leaves to turn yellow or drop. Freezing temperatures or cold drafts may cause wilting of the leaves.
Check your poinsettia daily and follow these tips. Water your poinsettia frequently but don't drown it. Keep the plant out of drafts, hot or cold. Place the plant in good light inside the house. And finally, after blooming, discard or begin preparing the plant to bloom again next year.
Keep pinching out the tips of the new growth once a month so the plant will bush out. Do no pinching after August 15th. The plant should flower right on time if these procedures are followed.
- Poinsettias can grow up to 10 feet. But, to grow them this big you will need a few years in a tropical climate that does not experience frosts.
- Poinsettias are native to Mexico.
- Chile and Peru called the poinsettia the "Crown of the Andes."
- Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae family. Many plants in this family ooze a milky sap. Other prominent plants include Manioc, the Castor bean, and the Para rubber tree.
- In nature, poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that can grow to ten feet tall.
- The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think are the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).
- Poinsettias are priced according to the number of blooms. The more blooms, the more expensive the plant.
- The flowers or cyathia of the poinsettia are in the center of the colorful bracts.
- Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower.
- Recent research has shown that poinsettias are not poisonous, but the plants are intended solely for ornamental purposes. Some people are allergic to the milky sap and may develop a rash when exposed to the sap. Avoid breaking the leaves and stems which releases the sap. It is wise to keep any houseplant out of the reach of small children and pets.
- A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache.
- A fresh poinsettia is one on which little or no yellow pollen is showing on the flower clusters in the center of the bracts. Plants that have shed their pollen will soon drop their colorful bracts.
- Poinsettias represent over 85 percent of the potted plant sales during the holiday season.
- Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.
- In the 17th century, Juan Balme, a botanist, mentioned poinsettia plants in his writings.
- Poinsettias were introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett.
- Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states.
- California is the top poinsettia producing state.
- Did you know that the poinsettia has a special day all its own? By an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day. The date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant to the United States. The purpose of the day is to enjoy the beauty of this popular holiday plant. So, be sure to give someone you love a poinsettia on December 12, National Poinsettia Day!
- The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 80 percent of poinsettias in the United States for the wholesale market.
- Ninety per cent of all the flowering poinsettias in the world got their start at the Paul Ecke Ranch.
- There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available.
- $220 million worth of poinsettias are sold during the holiday season.
- Seventy-four percent of Americans still prefer red poinsettias; 8 percent prefer white and 6 percent pink.
- Eighty percent of poinsettias are purchased by women.
- Eighty percent of people who purchase poinsettias are 40 or older.
- Poinsettias are the best-selling, flowering, potted plant in the United States.
- Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant even though most are sold in a 6