Poinsettia Day

December 12, 2011 by staff 

Poinsettia Day, Advent Red, Shimmer Surprise, Monet Twilight, Chianti, Ice Punch and Jubilee are just a few names of the varieties of poinsettias through Ecke Ranch. The Ecke’s hold on the poinsettia market has been a family business in the making for the past 100 years. Immigrating from Germany in the early 1900’s, Albert Ecke, Paul Ecke III’s grandfather, first set up shop in Hollywood before settling with his family in Encinitas to mass produce, sell, and market his idea of the perfect Christmas flower: the poinsettia.

Monday, Dec. 12, is National Poinsettia Day, which celebrates the beautiful plant — and pays tribute to the life and death of the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the man who helped introduce the plant to America.

Native to Mexico and Central America, the poinsettia would have likely stayed regional if not for Poinsett, who became obsessed with the plant and began shipping it back to his plantation in South Carolina in 1826. The botanical name for the poinsettia is euphorbia pulcherrima, but by 1836, it was most commonly known as the poinsettia through the trading and introduction efforts of Poinsett. Poinsett also help found what is known today as the Smithsonian Institute.

The poinsettia’s ties to Christmas also date back to a 16th century Mexican tale about a little girl who was too poor to give a gift in honor of Jesus Christ’s birthday. The story says that she was inspired by an angel to collect a handful of weeds from the side of the road and present them as her offering on the church altar. When placed on the altar, red blossoms and flowers grew from the weeds and became magnificent poinsettias. After that, many religious figures in Mexico used the poinsettias in their holiday festivities. The star shape of the poinsettia is also said to represent the Star of Bethlehem.

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