The Poinsettia(Euphorbia pulcherima)
The Poinsettia plant is native to Mexico. There it grows as a shrub, sometimes reaching as high as 10 feet. The Aztecs were to first known to have cultivated this plant and they spread it throughout parts of their Empire where climatic conditions allowed. These plants where highly reguarded by King Montezuma, but they could not be grown in his capital, which is now Mexico City.
The Aztecs called the Poinsettia "cuetlaxochitle" and highly reguarded this plant for its seasonal beauty and its medical uses. The bright red bracts were used to make a reddish-purple dye and a medicine for fever was made from the plant's latex.
Because of its brillant color and Christmas Holiday blooming time, Franciscan priests, near Taxco, Mexico began to use the flowering plant in the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre, a nativity procession. This is believed to be where the Poinsettias became first associated with the Christmas Holiday.
In early 1825 Joel Robert Poinsett, America's first ambassador to Mexico, discovered these plants growing wild in the hills near Taxco, Mexico. Poinsett, a botanist had some plants sent to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. He began culitvating a few plants in his greenhouses. He then shared same slips with friends and neigbors. One of these friends was John Bartram of Philadelhia. Bartram then gave some plants to Robert Buist, a nurseryman, who first sold the plants as Euphorbia pulcherima. In 1833, a German taxonomist had already named the Poinsettia Euphoria pulcherima. But in the English speaking countries the plant is known asEuphorbia poinsettia. The plant was given the name, Euphorbia poinsettia, in honor of Mr. Joel R. Poinsett. The commercial cultivation of the Poinsettia in this country had began from this start.
This commercial cultivation continues today with over 67 knowned varieties.
Varieties sold in garden centers include Poinsettias in red, and shades of white, cream, yellow, red, pink, and peach. Some are with variegated bracts that are striped, marbled, or spotted. Poinsettias are one of the most important floricultural crops prduced in this country. More poinsettias plants are sold in November and December than any other plant through the year. And the Poinsettia is easily the traditional Decenber Holiday plant.
Horicultural commitments to improve the size, foliage, shape, and lengthening of the time for the brilliant foliage display of the Poinsettia has made this beautiful holiday plant accessible to any budget. With the continual improvements of the very popular Poinsettia plant, these hardy and robust plants will usually maintain the their beautiful bushy foliage well into the Spring months.
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