A Seasonal Legend


With Christmas approaching far too quickly, and my Nano challenge completed, my attention turned to Christmas cards, and what designs I would do this year. One of my favourite christmas images is the Poinsettia and I got to wondering where it had come from, and if, indeed, it was a flower.These photographs demonstrate what I mean. In both cases, regardless of the colour, the pink and red bits above the green leaves are often mistaken for flowers, when in fact they are ‘bracts’. In the fourteenth century through to the sixteenth century, the Aztecs used the red bracts to make a dye, and the sap to treat fevers.

800px-poinsettia_2-ed.jpg  The flowers of the shrub are actually the little bits you see in the centre of each bract cluster      



The botanical name ascribed to this plant is Euphorbia pulcherrima, and means ‘very beautiful’. It was given its botanical name by a German Botanist, Wilenow, who discovered it growing wild through a crack in his greenhouse, and was so impressed that he began to cultivate it, and thus naming it.

The common name that most of us use is Poinsettia. This is derived from Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the first United States Ambassedor to Mexico. In 1828, whilst visiting Mexico he came across a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to the road, so taking cuttings, he cultivated them in his greenhouse in South Carolina. Thus he was the first to introduce the Poinsettia into the United States. Once the plant became more popular, William Prescott, a historiam and horticulturist named the plant Poinsettia after the man who had discovered it and bought it to America.


One family in California became renowned for growing the plant, at first in the early 1900s in borders outside, but later they began to grow them in the greenhouse. Today the Ecke family is the leading producer of Poinsettias in the United States.

 One of the unfortunate myths about the Poinsettia is that if eaten it is poisonous. This has been proven to be fiction, not fact after much serious research was done. It was tested in 1971, very rigorously and the conclusion was that it is not at all toxic. One would not recommend eating it though!

I discoved a legend that was attached to this plant, which suggests why it is so popular at Christmas. It is a story of a little Mexican girl on her way to the church to present a gift to the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. However, she is very poor and has nothing to offer and is distraught to think that she cannot give something. Her cousin tells her that even the most humble gift will be gratefully received and not to worry. She picks some wild flowers at the roadside and takes the little posy to the church. Whilst laying them in front of the altar. a miracle happens and the flowers transform themselves into beautiful red and green flowers. Hence the people of Mexico regard this as a special plant, especially at Christmas, and the Christian world has also adopted this tradition.

I thought this was such a lovely legend I wrote a poem about it, which you can read here.

And now, after reading and writing about Poinsettias. I decided perhaps I should make one. I was going to make a christmas card with paper poinsettias I have already made, but then I thought it might be fun to make one in felt. I am not quite sure whether it will go on a card, or be used for something else, but here is the Poinsettia Project in progress- stage one! 🙂





4 Responses to “A Seasonal Legend”

  1. December 4, 2007 at 1:26 am

    I love poinsettia flowers, they truly are a beautiful reminder of the holiday spirit.

  2. 2 kimmikat
    December 9, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    They are, and very easy to use as images, being so bright and with contrasting colours. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  3. January 11, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Off-topic, I know, but seeing as how you’re so fabulous, I’m passing the Amazing Blogger Award on to you.

    See here for info:

  4. 4 kimmikat
    January 11, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Gosh thank you! Don’t know what to say…(bows low). Gobsmacked!

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