Poinsettia – Euphorbia pulcherrima

Poinsettia
Poinsettia

…I have forgotten much, but still remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December…

By  Claude McKay (1890-1948)

 

 

In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, there is a common misconception that Poinsettias are toxic . The origin of this could be found in the fact that most plants of the spurge genus are indeed toxic and also because the name of the plant seems to refer to the word poison. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf. While it is true that the plant is not very toxic, those sensitive to latex may suffer an allergic reaction and it is therefore not advisable to bring the plants into the home of sensitive individuals.

Poinsettias were used for pain relief, antibacterial, and emetic. Folk medicine uses include remedies for skin, warts, and toothache. The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye.

The ancient Aztecs considered the poinsettia to be a symbol of purity. Today, poinsettias are the most easily recognized flower symbolic of Christmas.

The plants’ association with Christmas started in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan monks in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.

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