The flower most associated with Christmas in the UK is undoubtedly the poinsettia. With its rich red and green foliage, the plant has become popular in homes during the festive period owing to its colours being the hues traditionally used in Christmas decor. Although it has become such a popular yuletide flower, there are many facts about this beautiful plant that few people know. Discover more about the poinsettia, and delight your friends and family with your newfound knowledge of the festive flower.
This may come as quite a shock to some, but what you may believe to be the red flowers of the poinsettia are actually coloured bracts or modified leaves.
If you knew that the plant wasn’t British, you may have thought that the plant was American, especially as it features heavily in the backdrop of many American Christmas films. However, the poinsettia was first brought to America in 1828 by the botanist and the United States Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett.
This flower has its very own special day, 12th December. It is the day Joel Roberts Poinsett died in 1851.
In Spain, the poinsettia is not associated with Christmas but is known as Flor de Pascua, which translates to mean Easter flower.
Long before it became known as the Christmas flower, the Poinsettia was used by the ancient Aztecs in many different ways. The red leaves of the plant were used to make a reddish/purple dye that would be used to colour clothes. The sap that was exuded by the leaves was believed to have medicinal properties. It would be used to cure fevers.
It would be easy to believe that the Poinsettia only blooms in red, but there are over 100 varieties of the plant which blooms in not only vibrant red, but also white, purple, pink, speckled and marbled.
The botanical name of the plant is Euphorbia pulcherrima, but there have been many different names for the Christmas Flower throughout the ages and among various cultures and countries. The Aztecs called this plant Cuitlaxochitl, which derives from the Aztec name for residue, Cuitlatl and their word for flower, Xochitl. Combined, the new name for the plant means a flower that grows in the soil. In Mexico, the plant is called, La Flor de la Nochebuena which means, the flower of the night or Christmas Eve. Other cultures refer to the poinsettia as the Flame Flower or Lobster Flower, obviously because of the plant’s red leaves.
It has been estimated that women account for 80% of Poinsettia sales. That means that most women gifting and adorning their homes with this popular Christmas plant. It may not be a surprise that the flowers are bought primarily in December as festive decor in preparation for Christmas. Poinsettias are the most popular potted plant in the U.S. and Canada, and California residents topping the list when it comes to sales. The poinsettia is a relatively affordable plant but manages to account for $250 million in retail value in America alone.
Ingestion of poinsettia leaves is ill-advised as it can cause pets and children who do so to vomit and to become very ill. Although the plant is not strictly poisonous as eating of the leaves is not likely to be fatal, buyers should be very careful to keep this plant out of the reach of animals and children.