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Poinsettia Day: The colorful plant associated with the holiday season

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Dec. 12 is not only Gingerbread House Day and National Ding-a-ling-Day, it also celebrates a beautiful plant often associated with the Christmas holiday season. Dec. 12 is Poinsettia Day, an annual holiday that not only celebrates a colorful plant but also commemorates the death of American botanist, physician and the first United States Minister to Mexico.

Joel Roberts Poinsett

In 1828, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett noticed a beautiful shrub along the road in the Mexican countryside. He took some cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. Under his green thumb, the flowers grew and Poinsett began to distribute them.

While Poinsett introduced the poinsettia to the United States, legend has it that a young girl, too poor to offer a gift to honor Baby Jesus in a Christmas Procession, was instructed by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them around the manger. The weeds miraculously transformed into lovely Crimson blossoms and the Poinsettia was "born."

Poinsettia

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a lovely plant with colorful foliage. The star-like shaped leaves are often mistaken as flowers, but are actually leaves. In its native Mexico, the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that grows between 10 to 15 feet tall. With over 100 varieties, red is not the only poinsettia color. It also comes in white, pink, speckled, burgundy and marbled hues.

While Joel Roberts Poinsett died of tuberculosis on Dec. 12, 1851, his life lives on every Christmas. And speaking of special days...

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