Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Countdown to the Holidays: Poinsettias

Have you bought your Poinsettias yet?

My son was selling them as a fundraiser for the middle school band - I currently have a table full to be delivered to my generous neighbors later today. But why are the red flowers so popular at this time of the year? I did a little online searching...

The hothouse flower has been a Christmas staple in New England since the mid-1800's, but the Poinsettia is native to Mexico. It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in the early 1800's.

According to Wikipedia, the plant's association with Christmas 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's 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.

Starting in the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico supposedly included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood of Christ from his crucifixion.

Apparently, the plants were also known to the Aztecs, who used the flowers to make their bright red dyes, as well as for medicinal purposes. There is a common understanding that the flowers are poisonous to cats and dogs and small children, but studies are inconclusive. Since my dogs are beyond the chewing stage (except for books, of course) I'm not going to worry.

People seem to either love the bright flowers or hate them. I'm not sure why... this is actually the first year in a long time that I have them in my home - and I must say, they're beautiful.

Do you buy poinsettias for the holidays? Why or why not?


  1. I don't buy them. I have a cat and I'm not taking any chances...

  2. Wow cool! I LOVE them! But I don't buy them because of...the cat thing, like that feller up above me. Sparkly ones are my fav.

  3. Diane has one that she has been growing from a one stem tiny's now enormous. She has a spare room that she can give it the 12 hours of dark/12 hours of light, to get it to turn red again. It has become a beautiful red plant every Christmas for the past 4 or so years. Me? I just buy a new one! If they survive till Spring, they also make a great filler plant in your garden, get really bushy and green. It's odd to see them growing like 'wildflowers' in Southern California, we are so used to them being 'hothouse' plants in the East.


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