Poinsettia flower buds
© Wild Wonders of Europe/Radisics/Minden Picture
December blooms. The story of the poinsettia
December is the poinsettia’s time to shine. Today, National Poinsettia Day, marks the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the physician and botanist who first introduced the colourful plant to the United States in 1828. He discovered the plant while he was serving as first US Ambassador to Mexico, the plant’s native country, where Aztecs once used it to produce red dye. According to legend, the plant’s association with Christmas began in the 16th-century Mexico, where a little girl – too poor to buy a gift – gathered weeds from the roadside and placed them in front of a church alter. They eventually produced lovely red leaves alongside the green ones, and the poinsettia plant had become a Christmas tradition.