How many poinsettias do you have on your front porch? We all rush out in November to purchase our plants to provide the color we all enjoy during the holiday season. But what do we know about them? The “painted leaf” plant is originally from Mexico and was first identified by Europeans during an expedition in 1803-1804. It then became known as the “Mexico flame flower”.
Franciscan friars, evangelizing in Mexico, first adopted the plant during their Christmas celebrations in the early 1800’s. The star shaped flower was thought to resemble the Star of Bethlehem and the color represented the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. In the 1820’s, the United States Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, sent some of the flowers back to his South Carolina greenhouses. It was from this first shipment into the United States that the commercial interest began, and the plant assumed its new name – poinsettia.
Today, there are over 100 varieties of poinsettias including ones with colored leaves, called bracts, of orange, white and purple, in addition to the traditional red. If you have an interest in these new varieties, the University of Florida Horticulture Club hosts an annual sale in early December with over forty of the newest types, including the well-known red.
We wish you a relaxing and restful holiday season.