How Poinsettias Came To Us

It would be an error to assume that the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett ‘discovered’ the plant we call by his name. While Mr. Poinsett was the first person to bring the plant back to the United States, the native inhabitants of Central America had known about this winter blooming plant for a long time.

Spanish overlords sent samples to Carl Linnaeus for official descriptions and naming in the 1700s, but it isn’t an easy plant to bring into bloom, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention in Europe.

An avid plantsman from Charleston, Dr. Joel Poinsett was appointed the first U.S. minister to the new Republic of Mexico in 1825. While visiting an area south of Mexico City, Poinsett encountered this outstanding red-flowered plant, actually named Euphorbia pulcherrima, which he had to have, and, like most plant people, he wanted to share his find.

 

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