Originating from tropical Mexico, the poinsettia was named for Dr. Joel Roberts-Poinsett, the US Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the first poinsettia flower to the United States in 1928.
The poinsettia’s rich scarlet color comes from its bracts (the leaf-like sections which grow before the flower) rather than the actual flowers themselves. In Mexico (where poinsettias are known to grow as high as sixteen feet) it is known as the Flor de Noch Buena, the “Flower of the Holy Night.” Its bracts are said to resemble the flower of Bethlehem; therefore, it is used to decorate churches at Christmastime. To make a poinsettia bloom again the following Christmas, one must cover it every evening so it gets little light. The poinsettia is a member of the euphobia, or spurge family. The name “spurge” originates from the Old French espurge; it was one of the powerful purgatives used in medieval times to rid the body of black bile and melancholy.
Popular worldwide as “the Christmas flower”, white, pink and red poinsettias bring wishes of mirth and celebration.