Friday, December 23, 2022

POINSETTIA: The Flower of Christmas

By Mary Davis

One doesn’t have to go far to see a poinsettia once November begins. Pretty much any store, church, or public place has real or artificial ones, often in great quantities. But where did they come from, and how did they become synonymous with Christmas?

Poinsettias, a.k.a. Euphorbia Pulcherrima, are native to Southern Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs referred to this woody bush as Cuetlaxochitl and were likely the first to cultivate it. This bush, or small tree, can reach heights of ten to fifteen feet and barely resembles the bushy varieties we see today. The Aztecs used the bracts (the red leaves) for dyes and the latex (milky sap) to treat fevers and to create other medicinal products.

Since the plant naturally flowers during the Christmas season, 17th century Franciscan priests used them in their nativity processions and scenes. Hence, that linked them with the holiday, along with their traditional Christmas colors.

A Mexican folktale has a different take how it became associated with Christmas. A poor peasant girl had nothing to bring to the nativity scene on Christmas Eve for baby Jesus. On her way to the church, an angel encouraged her to pick what was considered little more than a weed. When she laid the armful she had gathered at the base of the nativity, they burst with bright red flowers and forever linked them with Christmas.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, first U. S. ambassador to Mexico, introduced this plant to the United States in 1825. Being an amateur botanist, he sent some back to his greenhouse in South Carolina and began cultivating them. This is where the common name poinsettia, we use today, is derived from.

Two men instrumental in promoting the poinsettia as a Christmas flower were Colonel Robert Carr, a nursery owner, and Paul Ecke, a horticulturalist. It was a third generation Ecke who is largely responsible for advancing the poinsettia’s popularity at Christmas. He sent free plants to TV stations to be used as decorations on-air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Today, 70 million poinsettias are sold in a six-week period each year in the United States, valued at $250 million dollars. No surprise that it is the number one flowering potted plant in the U. S.

To honor both this Christmas flower and Joel Poinsett, December 12th was set aside as National Poinsettia Day by an Act of Congress in 2002. The twelfth is the day Poinsett passed away in 1851.

Did you buy one of the 70 million poinsettias sold this year?



Historical Romance

THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT (Book1) – Will a secret clouding a single mother’s past cost Lily the man she loves?

THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Book2) *2020 Selah Awards Finalist & WRMA Finalist* – As Isabelle’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams.

THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Book3) *2021 Selah Awards Winner& WRMA Finalist*– Nicole heads down the mountain to fetch herself a husband. Can she learn to be enough of a lady to snag the handsome rancher?

THE DÉBUTANTE’S SECRET (Book4) –Complications arise when a fancy French lady, Geneviève, steps off the train and into Deputy Montana’s arms.

NEW RELEASE!!! THE LADY’S MISSION (Book5) – Will Cordelia abandon her calling for love?

MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE LADY’S MISSION. Her other novels include MRS. WITHERSPOON GOES TO WAR, THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Quilting Circle 3) is a Selah Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT, THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT,Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection , Prodigal Daughters Amish series, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-eight years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today, and Merry Christmas! It was interesting to find out more about the poinsettia and especially how it got its' name. I don't buy one, but I do enjoy seeing them in the stores and at friends' houses.