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National Poinsettia Day

National Poinsettia Day marks the death of Joel Robert Poinsett who died on December 12, 1851.

Poinsettias were first brought to the United States by Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico and the namesake of the plant in English speaking countries. In July of 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution as a tribute to Poinsett.

In 1828, Poinsett, a botanist by trade, saw the plants growing on a hillside in Taxco, Mexico and sent some to his home in South Carolina where he began growing them in his greenhouse and distributing them around the country.

Botanically known as Euphorbia Pulcherrima, the Poinsettia is a flowering plant with star shaped modified leaves called "bracts" which are often mistaken as flowers. The true non-pollinating flowers of the Poinsettia are located in the center of the bracts.

They are actually shrubs that grows wild in seasonally hot, dry forests and along the hot damp coast of Mexico and Central America where they grow up to ten feet tall. Poinsettias cannot survive outdoors in cold climates but can be grown outdoors in coastal locations as far north as Los Angeles, California.

Although they were once considered weeds, today, Poinsettias are popularly used as Christmas floral displays in homes, offices, schools, and other locations.

Known as Noche Buena in Mexico and Guatemala, Poinsettias had been associated with Christmas for many years in Latin America before they were introduced into the United States.

The Aztecs called the plant, Cuitlaxochitl, which means star flower. They used the milky sap that oozes from the stems as medicine and they also used the red leaves to make dye for their clothing, blankets, and other materials.

Although Poinsettias are native to Mexico and other central American countries, most are grown in the United States for domestic use and export. California leads the way with nearly 70 percent of the market.

There are more than one hundred varieties of Poinsettias with different colors including several shades of red, orange, white, pink, yellow, purple, and multi-colored varieties.

Poinsettias are very popular in Canada and the United States where most are sold in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Over two hundred million dollars worth are purchased each year making the Poinsettia the best selling potted plant in the world.


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