The origin of the poinsettia -
a tragic love story
A perfect nameThe poinsettia has many names. In most countries its link with Christmas is expressed through the name. In its home country of Mexico, it is called "Flores de Noche Buena" – ‘the flower of Christmas Eve’. And for good reason: at Christmas time, the poinsettia’s bracts change colour and the plant is in full bloom!
In contrast, the French know the poinsettia as "Étoile d'amour", a ‘love star’. Most likely the Aztecs also used this name since, according to legend, the bracts of the poinsettia were moistened with drops of blood from an Aztec goddess who died of a broken heart. They believed this was how the plant got its unmistakable red colour.
A sign of diplomacy
Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, is responsible for the global popularity of the poinsettia. Around 200 years ago, he sent a few plants to his hometown of Philadelphia for study. The lovely Mexican plant was initially coined ‘Poinsettie’ in his honour. Around 100 years later, the first plants arrived in Europe. Here, they were given the botanical name ‘Euphorbia pulcherrima’, the most beautiful of the euphorbias.