Sunday, December 20, 2009


Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as poinsettia, is a species of flowering plant indigenous to Mexico and Guatemala. The name "poinsettia" is after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl meaning "skin flower." The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication.Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "Noche Buena" or Christmas' Eve. In Spain its is known as "Flor de Pascua" or Easter Flower in English. In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Crown of the Andes".

The plants' association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The tale goes that the child 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.

Across North America, poinsettias are typical Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere, available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

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