Species of the Week: the Poinsettia

mexico natural

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The Poinsettia.  This Christmas flower is a native of Mexico, particularly of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas, where wild variants are still found.  Its ceremonial use dates from pre-historic times. It was also used to treat Erysipelas and other skin diseases, and to boost milk production in nursing women. It was also used to tan hides.

It was the Franciscan missionaries who adapted it to Christmas use in the 17th century, using a legend of a poor girl inspired by an angel to make a gift of weeds to the baby Jesus, which miraculously flowered on Christmas Eve.  This is why in Spanish it is called Noche Buena, which means Holy Night.

In 1825, the USA ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett introduced this plant to the USA, and from there it spread to the rest of the world. For this reason it is called the Poinsettia in English.  In Arabic…

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