Their tendency to bloom during the early winter months combined with their vivid red, star shaped leaves, make them the ideal Christmas plant.
Surprisingly, until just a couple of centuries ago the Poinsettia did not even exist in the United States.
The Poinsettia, originally known as Flores de Noche Buena (Flowers of the Holy Night), is a plant that is originally a native of the highlands of Central America.
Ancient Aztecs used the milky sap (latex) from the Poinsettia to treat fevers brought on by illness.
They also used the red leaves from the plant to create a purple colored dye that was used to color makeup, fabric and clothe.
If it were not for Dr.
Joel Poinsette, the Poinsettia may never have become a part of the American Christmas tradition.
Besides being the first Mexican ambassador to the United States, Poinsette was also an amateur botanist.
During a trip to Mexico in 1825, he noticed the beautiful red plants growing wild and he could not resist bringing some home to South Carolina with him.
The plants flourished so well under his care that he was able to reproduce enough of them to give them to his friends as well as several different botanical gardens.
Eventually, the plant could found be growing wild all across the United States.
The Flores de Noche Buena later adopted the English name Poinsettia in honor of Dr Joel Poinsette.
Paul Ecke Sr.
is credited with establishing the first potted Poinsettia that could be grown indoors.
He liked the plant so much that he wanted to make it a living symbol of Christmas.
He sold the plant to people all across the United States making his vision a success.
He was so successful that he became the largest producer of the Poinsettia in the world.
In fact, over 90% of the Poinsettias sold in the world today come from the Paul Ecke ranch in California.
As with any Christmas icon, there is a legend that ties the Poinsettia with Christianity.
This legend tells of a poor little girl and her cousin who were going to church to see the nativity.
The little girl was sad because she did not have a present for the baby Jesus.
Her cousin convinced her that a bouquet of weeds picked from the roadside would be the perfect gift for him because it was a humble gift.
When she approached the church alter, the bouquet of weeds turned into the beautiful red flowers that we now know as the Poinsettia.
Since its introduction to the United States 1825, the Poinsettia has become the most popular plant during the Christmas Season.
Each year, there are more than 70 million Poinsettias sold in the United States alone.
The Poinsettia even has a day named after it.
Poinsettia Day is December 12, marking the date that Dr.
Joel Poinsette died.