December 12th is National Poinsettia Day in the USA, and this seems a fitting time to write a post on this flower which has come to be associated with Christmas. It originated in Central America, and was introduced into the US in 1825 by Joel R. Poinsett for whom it was named in English.
  The red leaves attract pollinators to the insignificant flowers which reside in the centre of them. These upper leaves may be pink, white, pink and cream or white, and orange. There may be other colours too. The plant is not actually extremely toxic although if you eat enough of the foul-tasting leaves you might vomit. The sap from the plant has been used as a hair remover, and to stimulate lactation in nursing mothers. It is said that it was once used as an abortifacient too. It has antibacterial properties and has some reputation as a pain reliever particularly for toothache. The sap is also used to get rid of warts, pimples and other skin problems. As a member of the Euphorbiceae family it is related to Dog’s and French Mercury, as well as jamalgota, the castor oil plant, and cassava or manioc to name but a few of the plants in this spurge family.
  It is associated with Christmas due in part to a 16th century Mexican legend which tells of a young girl, too poor to give a gift to Jesus on his birthday (Christmas Day). An angel told her to gather weeds from the roadside and place them on the church altar. She did this and the poinsettia flowered from them. In 17th century Mexico the Franciscan friars also incorporated them into their Christmas decoration, claiming that the star-shape of the coloured leaves symbolized the Star of Bethlehem and the red leaves symbolized the blood of Christ, sacrificed for the human race.
  In the wild this shrub can grow to heights of 4 metres or 16 feet, but the kind we get in pots is rarely more than 2 feet high. In Spain it is called the Easter flower and it can be grown at this time as well as near Christmas. In Mexico it is “Noche Buenos” (Good Night) referring to Christmas Eve. In Greek it is papagallo or the parrot flower, while in Turkey it is the Ataturk flower.
  The Poinsettia cocktail is not made with the plant but with Prosecco a sparkling Italian wine (also used to make the peach cocktail, the Bellini), vodka and cranberries and sometimes an orange-flavour liqueuer such as Tripe Sec or cointreau.


  1. I now learned some useful information to help my daughter with a plant report!

  2. We're so glad that the information was useful! Good luck with the report!

  3. I work at a wholesale nursery in australia. This site was fantastic and has some great information and "fun facts" we are currently 3/4 of the way thru our crazy pionsettia season sending out thousands weekly all over the country. If you have any more information that could help me do my job better (i work in all aspects from propagation to dispatch) i would be extremely grateful. Im particularly interested in their health benefits and the process they undergo to remove toxins from the air around us..

  4. The spanish term is "noche buena" not noche buenos.... it originated in mexico Not in central america.