In Mexico, the native land of what in the north we refer to as the Poinsettia, the honored flower of Christmas is called Flor de Noche Buena, the bloom of Christmas Eve. Like most things in Mexico, it is abundant in symbolism. According to legend, a poor little girl, known as Pepita, traveled empty handed to honor the birth of the baby Jesus. She prayed for a gift to present at the altar and an angel appeared to her on the side of the road. (We seriously need to take up this practice, since it has produced very positive outcomes, resulting in everything from roses and gold to magical transportation.) Pepita was instructed to pull up ugly weeds and present them at the church. Of course, the offering turned into deep red beautiful leaves that stunningly resembled the blood of Christ and the shape of the inner leaves resemble a star, therefore immediately bring to mind The Star of Bethlehem.
Contrary to what your Aunt Fernanda has told you, poinsettias are not poisonous. Studies have proven that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have a harmful effect. Considering the nasty taste of the milky sap that is emitted from the stalks, said child is likely to prefer the tangerines and candy canes traditionally acceptable as Christmastime edibles.
Named for the US ambassador to Mexico in the mid 19th century, Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and doctor, the name is unarguably pronounced with or without the ee-ah.
The red blossoms are actually not a flower, but simply a continuation of the leaves, the red color produced through a process called photoperiodism, which deals with exposure to dark.
Coincidentally, in Mexico, the day one sees the greatest abundance of poinsettias is upon the 12th of December, Guadalupana, was also the day that Joel Roberts Poinsett died.
They can’t survive a frost but will grow into small bushes in the proper climate. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl, meaning “flower that grows in soil,” so chances are anyone will have some success moving them from the dinner table centerpiece to the front yard. Good luck and, according to my experts, for a long lasting poinsettia, choose those with little or no yellow pollen showing.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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