Flor de Noche Buena
Poinsettias are in proliferation in Puerto Vallarta. Everywhere one looks; parks, stores, the airport, lining streets, in private homes, restaurants, hotel lobbies and on and on. You can buy a bundle of them at roadside stands for much less than you are accustomed to NOTB. In Spanish, poinsettias are called Flor de Noche Buena, the flower of Christmas Eve.
According to the Mexican legend, Pepita, a poor little peasant girl, traveled a long distance to honor the birth of the baby Jesus. She prayed for a gift to present at the altar of the church, since she was too poor to have afforded one of her own. An angel appeared to her on the side of the road, where angels seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Mexico. Pepita was instructed to pick the ugly weeds surrounding her and present them upon her arrival at the house of worship. Her handful of wild, unattractive plants magically transformed themselves into beautiful leaves that observers felt resembled the blood of Christ. The shape of the inner foliage of the flower, to those looking for symbolism, resembles the Star of Bethlehem.
Poinsettias are not poisonous. 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, children and pets alike are likely to prefer tangerines, candy canes and dinner leftovers that adorn tables this time of year.
In the mid 19th century the poinsettia was named in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the US ambassador to Mexico, who was a botanist and doctor. The red blossoms are actually not a flower, but basically a continuation of the leaves, the red color produced through a process called photoperiodism, exposure to dark, rather than light, attributed in part to the long nights of winter.
We will see the greatest profusion of Flor de Noche Buena in Puerto Vallarta, on the 12th of December, Guadalupana, the grand day that honors Our Lady of Guadalupe. Coincidentally, this is also the day of Joel Roberts Poinsett’s death in 1851.
Poinsettias 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 decorative centerpiece to outdoor garden. Good luck, and when shopping, according to my experts, for a long lasting poinsettia choose those with little or no yellow pollen showing.
Que es cómo es.