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A brief history of the poinsettia

Did you know that the poinsettia was introduced to the American public at the first Philadelphia Flower Show in 1829?

Native to Central America, the poinsettia flourished in southern Mexico. The Aztecs extracted a purplish dye from the plant to use in textiles, and used the sap in a preparation to treat fevers. Some may be sensitive to the sap, so keep children and pets away from it to be safe.

Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 – 1851), the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, spotted the brilliant red blooms on a trip to Mexico in 1825. With a love for botany, he shipped some of the plants back to his hothouse in Greenville, South Carolina. It was there that he began propagating the plants and sending them to friends and botanical gardens. Bartram's Garden received one of the plants and introduced it into commercial cultivation.

Part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family, these beloved plants have a strong following of fans. “I love them -- when I see all the varieties of poinsettias in a store, especially peach, salmon or speckled ones, I get giddy,” says Dee Thurmer, Grower, PHS Meadowbrook Farm. “I surround my Christmas tree with them, using up to 18 plants at a time to add color.” One of Thurmer’s favorites is Princettia Pink, a hot pink plant that is not a typical Christmas color.

Read more at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (Marion McParland)

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