The Poinsettia plant's bright red bracts have long been associated with Christmas; in fact, it's more commonly known as "The Christmas Plant" than by its botanical name, euphorbia pulcherrima. Most people recognize this plant because it is commonly used as a decorative accent during the holiday season, but they are unaware of its origins or how it came to be associated with Christmas. The following are some interesting facts about the plant that most people don't know about.
Poinsettias in the Wild
Poinsettias are native to Mexico's southernmost tip, and their name is derived from Joel Roberts Poinsett, a 19th century amateur botanist and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett first documented them in 1828 and brought some back to his South Carolina greenhouse. He gave one of the plants to a botanist friend, John Bertram, who began commercially propagating them as cut flowers. It wasn't until the next century, however, that they became known as a classic holiday fixture, and that was because Paul Ecke Jr. sent potted Poinsettia plants to Hollywood TV studios as seasonal gifts. They appeared on shows like Bob Hope's Christmas specials and The Tonight Show, and a tradition was born.
Poinsettias of Legend
According to a Mexican legend, a small girl was on her way to visit the baby Jesus and didn't have a gift to bring, so she grabbed a small handful of roadside weeds. When she knelt before him at the altar and held out her offering, the weeds bloomed into vibrant red flowers, and everyone in the room thought they'd witnessed a miracle.
Poinsettias Aren't Poisonous
Poinsettias, contrary to popular belief, are not poisonous. According to studies, an average-sized child or pet would have to consume more than 500 Poinsettia leaves to experience any negative effects such as nausea or vomiting. Another common misconception is that their bright red color is due to flowers; however, these are bracts, which are a type of leaf. Poinsettias are also available in white and pink.