The Poinsettia with its star-shaped green leaves that turn into a deep red flower at the top has several names and a very interesting history and legend.
Euphorbia pulcherrima (literally, "the most beautiful Euphorbia") also known as the “Flor del Noche Buena” ( Flower of Christmas Eve) in Mexico, or the “Flame Leaf” in Central America is a favorite of all of the Americas at Christmas. It is commonly known to many in North America as the Poinsettia, named after Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. (1825 - 1829)
While visiting the Taxco area, in Mexico, where the plant is native, in 1828 Poinsett encountered it and fell in love with the flowers. He then shipped some to his own nursery in Greenville, South Carolina where they were given to several others eventually to be grown commercially. Obviously from his last name they derived the American name of Poinsettia or Poinsettia as some say it.
Where did it come originally from?
The plant was originally used by the Aztecs and was called “Cuetlaxochitle”. They used the sap from the plant's bract to reduce fevers and to make a reddish-purple dye. It is said that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec Kings brought the flowers from Southern Mexico in caravans to Mexico City because it would not grow at the higher altitudes.
The Legend of “Flor de Noche Buena” There is also a wonderful legend in Mexico as to how the flower became used to celebrate Christmas. It begins with a poor girl named Maria or Pepita and her little brother Pablo or cousin Pedro depending on who tells the story. She was very sad, being so poor that she had nothing to give baby Jesus in the manger scene in the Village Church.
On Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) on the way to the church, Maria picked some weeds to make a bouquet to bring to the manger scene. Her little brother said to her “it does not matter what she gives as long as it was given in love”. The children of the village, of course, teased them until they saw the plants turn from green to a bright red on top right before their eyes as Maria knelt at the alter. The whole village then realized they had just witnessed a true Christmas miracle and from that day on the plant became known as the “Flor de Noche Buena”.
We here at Baja Insider hope that you too enjoy the miracle of the “Flor de Noche Buena” or Poinsettia and wish you the best for the Holidays.
Happy Holidays from the Crew at the BajaInsider.com!