A poinsettia is a small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6 to 4 m (2 to 16 ft). The plant bears dark green dentate leaves that measure 7 to 16 cm (3 to 6 inches) in length. The top leaves, known as bracts, are flaming red, pink, or white and are often mistaken as flowers. The actual flowers are grouped within the small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, which are called cyathia.
The poinsettia became associated to the Xmas season because Mexicans in the XVIII century believed the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethelem.
Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico, and native to the Pacific coast of the USA. The name “Poinsettia” is after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettia’s and Christmas come together, it goes like this:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said ‘I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.’
Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
by Juan Carlos