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Be of Good Cheer
Facts & Folkore:
These plants were initially studied and given the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima by German botanists, meaning “the most beautiful euphorb." Nonetheless, the plant is still commonly known in as the poinsettia in most English-speaking countries as a result of American botanist, physician and Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who in 1828 sent cuttings of the plant he'd discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina.
In Mexico the plant is called La Flor de la Nochebuena or, Flower of the Holy Night and is displayed in celebration of the December 12th, Dia de la Virgen.
Use of the plant to celebrate Christmas in Mexico dates back to the 17th century. The flower connects to the legend of a young girl, distraught about not having anything with which to honor the Baby Jesus in a Christmas Procession. An angel tells her that any gift given with love is a wonderful gift. Later the weeds she gathers by the roadside to place around the manger miraculously transform into the beautiful red star flower we think of as Poinsettia.
Mexico's relationship to the plant goes back even further to the Aztec civilization who called the plant Cuitlaxochitl meaning "star flower." Montezuma, last of the Aztec kings, had Poinsettias delivered to him in by caravan to what is now Mexico City. It was used to produce a red dye, and the sap was also used to control fevers.
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