Did you know that the poinsettia plant has a special day all its own? Tomorrow is National Poinsettia Day! December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day by an Act of Congress in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett who died on December 12, 1851.
Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, introduced these gorgeous flowers to the United States in the 1820s. While visiting Taxco, Mexico, Poinsett found the flowers growing on a hillside and had some of them sent to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. The flowers grew well in his greenhouse and he gave them out as gifts to friends. Poinsett later founded the Smithsonian Institution.
The scientific term for the Poinsettia is Euphorbia Pulcherrima, but “poinsettia” soon became the accepted name of the flower in English-speaking countries. The poinsettia is a blossoming plant with beautiful red and green foliage, which makes it a popular decoration during the Christmas holiday season. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood of Jesus.
The plant’s association with Christmas actually 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.
A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally have a somewhat weedy look. The fuller, more compact plants that are sold in stores were produced by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. Learn more about poinsettias at The Poinsettia Pages. To view poinsettias in the wild, visit The Wild Poinsettia Page. For poinsettia crafts and activities, see: http://www.first-school.ws/activities/crafts/holiday/poinsettia.htm