La Flor de Noche Buena – [Poinsettia]

La Flor de Noche Buena (Euphorbiaceae), meaning “Christmas Eve Flower” because its leaves turn red around late December. It is indigenous to Mexico and Guatemala, cultivated by the Aztecs for use as antipyretic medication to reduce fever.  In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl, meaning “flower that grows in sedimentary soil.

Franciscan friars in Mexico associated the plant with Christmas since the 16th. century. There are many religious legends surrounding the plant, including that the star-shaped leaf pattern symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice of Jesus’s crucifixion, and many more.

During his expedition to Latin America In 1803, Alexander von Humboldt sent out a sample of the poinsettia to Germany and in 1834, the poinsettia was described as a new species by German scientist Johann Friedrich Klotzsch who gave it the species name “pulcherrima“. [Remember Alexander von Humboldt’s expedition, as we will talk about him later in May.]

In 1820, Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American physician, and diplomat from South Carolina serving as the first United States Minister to the new Independent nation of Mexico at the time. Poinsett, who was an avid amateur botanist, sent samples of the plant to the United States, and by 1836 the plant was widely known as the “poinsettia”. [Also, there is a species of Mexican lizard, Sceloporus poinsettii,  named in Poinsett’s honor.]

Albert Ecke a German immigrant in Los Angeles in 1900, He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, developed a grafting technique, and they still served about 70 percent of the domestic market and 50 percent of the worldwide market.

Legends about “La Flor de Noche Buena” – [Poinsettia]

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