The flowering plant commonly known in the USA as a Poinsettia is actually a native plant to Mexico that dates back to the Aztecs with the name Cuitlaxochitl -brilliant flower? The plant was cultivated and valued by the Aztecs and Mayans for its beauty and medicinal purposes well before the arrival of Europeans. The Mayans referred to it as k’alul wits – ember flower.
But, Joel Robert Poinsett appointed Ambassador to Mexico enamored with the flower appropriated it, and named it after himself. After sending the plants to his greenhouse in South Carolina in the 1820s, he made a small fortune by selling its seeds and marketing the plant outside of Mexico.
Poinsett first saw Mexico’s native plant in a church placed around a nativity – it was called by the Catholic friars as “Flor de Noche Buena” or “Flor de Navidad”
During his time in Mexico, Poinsett became persona non grata and he was so disliked for the atrocities he committed including displacing and transporting Native Mexican Indians north and causing so much conflict, he was recalled and with concern for his life, he was forced to return to Washington D.C.
While ambassador Poinsett meddled so much in the affairs of Mexico and the rest of Latin America that the term Poinsettismo was coined to describe officious and intrusive conduct.
Many today, who know the history and conduct of this man refuse to refer to the plant as a Poinsettia, most especially in Mexico and Central America.
It is not only the most popular Christmas plant but the Number 1 flowering potted plant in the United States. This plant claimed as a “discovery” by Poinsett is viewed by Latino historians as an example of untold history and another item stolen from Mexico.