When we lived in Mexico City, I remember poinsettia bushes taller than my father.
In those days, our school had a "living" nativity scene and everyone had a "job."
Mine was to move the ceramic mule a couple of centimeters closer to the manger every day so that Mary, Joseph and the mule would get to the manger on Christmas Eve, when a red poinsettia would appear next to Baby Jesus' crib.
There is a wonderful legend that explains why poinsettias are considered the Christmas flower.
Once there were two very poor children. The children looked forward to the Christmas Festival, where a large manger scene was set up every year in front of the village church.
One Christmas Eve, the children set out to attend church services. They didn't have money to buy expensive gifts so they picked weeds growing along the road.
Neighborhood kids made fun of the weeds but the two children ignored them.
As they carefully placed weeds around the manger, the top green leaves started to turn into bright red petals.
Soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful, star-like red flowers, showing that a gift of love is dearer than any presents money can buy.
Poinsettias are native to Central America and have been around for thousands of years. The Aztecs used the red braces for dye and the white sap for medicinal purposes, which today we know as latex.
Poinsettias are not poisonous but I would still keep them out of reach. Pets or children chewing on white latex sap could lead to unpleasant stomach aches and aggravate people who have latex allergies.
Their flowers are actually the tiny yellow spots in the center of the colored leaves, which today are available in a variety of colors besides red.
These cousins of castor beans and crown of thorns were named after the first US Ambassador to Mexico, Juan Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett lived in the early 1800s and brought Poinsettias back to his South Carolina plantation, where he shared the plants with friends and botanical gardens. Today poinsettias represent about 85 percent of all potted plant Christmas season sales.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas filled with the beauty of the season and the gift of love.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins shares her gardening adventures at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2012 used with permission by
Gatehouse Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org