© Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Image
Christmas flowers. Poinsettia plant
With their festive red and green foliage, poinsettias are a popular choice of houseplant for Christmas – millions of them are sold in the UK each year. In their native Mexico and central America they are a shrub which grows around the edge of forests, sometimes as high as 13ft (4m). The Aztecs used the leaves to make dye and the sap to treat fevers. They called it Cuetlaxochitl, but today in Guatemala and Mexico it is known as flor de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve flower. It's thought to have been associated with Christmas there for hundreds of years and was used by Franciscan friars in their Christmas celebrations from the 17th century.
They were named poinsettias after the American botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced them to the US in 1828. Flash forward to the 1960s, when a breeding program resulted in hardier, fuller plants and many variations. Poinsettias are the top-selling potted plant in the US, where 12 December is celebrated as Poinsettia Day.