December 25, 2022
DEC 25: holidays and celebrations: poinsettias
Authors' Note: Poinsettia is now the common name by which this seasonal plant is known around the world.
Joel Poinsett, South Carolinian physician and amateur botanist, served as the first US ambassador (a position designated as minister) to Mexico. In the 1820s, he sent home to his greenhouses samples of Euphorbia pulcherrima (member of the spurge family), locally known as flor de nochebuena (Christmas Eve), linked to the Hispanic nativity celebration.
Distribution of the poinsettia in the US was enhanced by development of cultivars with a more lush profusion of the colored bracts, and recently, by variants in other appealing colors. Today, a single nursery in Texas accounts for 70% of American sales, and half of all global sales of this decorative seasonal specialty.
Incidentally, although the plant is assumed by many to be toxic, that possibility appears based on an incorrect original report, unsupported by other evidence.