Highlighting the Beautiful Poinsettia, or Nochebuena, Flower

Native to Mexico, the Poinsetttia flower, Euphorbia pulcherrima (or Christmas flower, flor de navidad, nochebuena, pastora, pascuero, Pascua, and Estrella federal) is the one flower you think of when thinking about Christmas. Bright crissum red, with its unique star-shape, this beautiful flower is thought to be endemic to the town of Taxco, Guerrero and it fills us with pride knowing that Lolo and this flower share the same roots.

Photo by Annie Spratt (Unsplash)

In Prehispanic times, Aztecs called this flower Cuetlaxóchitl in Nahuatl—this comes from the conjunction of the words Cuetlaxtli which means “leather”, and Xochitl, which means “flower” or “the queen of all flowers”—translated as “flower that withers”, or “flower of resistant petals, like leather”.  For these ancient people, associated this flower’s red and vivid colors to blood, and referred to it as “flor que se marchita” given that it tends to blossom only during winter months.

THE LEYEND OF POINSETTIA, OR NOCHEBUENA, FLOWER

The folk tale that is told about the nochebuena flower in Mexico, tells of a humble little girl who wanted to gift Baby Jesus with something meaningful during Christmas celebrations but could not find anything big enough that reflected her love or that slightly compared to the gifts he was receiving from other, more affluent people from her town. On her way to Christmas Eve mass, she decided she would gift him flower, but could not afford them. As she was kneeling on the side of the road crying from shame an angel, disguised as a boy, convinced her to cut down some weeds from the roadside, and so she did. As she was entering church, she kept her head down, unable to hide her shame. However, ss she placed her bouquet of flowers at the altar, the weeds blossomed into beautiful crimson star-shaped flowers, creating a miracle in response to this little girl’s unselfish gift.

"Santa Prisca y Nochebuena, 2019". Photo by Secretaría del Estado de Guerrero (Facebook)

Did you know…

The largest Poinsettia flower recorded in history is in Taxco Guerrero (according to Guinness World Records) where several potted poinsettias are used to display a yearly recreation of an oversized poinsettia.

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. While some humans and pets are sensitive to the plant’s milky white sap, which contains latex, it is not toxic. It can, however, cause irritation to the skin, eyes, mucus membranes or digestive system (if consumed).

Poinsettias can grow up to 15 feet tall. In their native tropical environment in Mexico and Central America, poinsettias are a perennial woody shrub that grows as high as 10 to 15 feet tall – more like a small tree than a houseplant.

There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias can grow in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled, and speckled.

The name Poinsettia comes from Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician, and the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are not flowers, but colored leaves. The flowers are actually the little yellow buds in the center of each collection of leaves (the collection of leaves is called a bracht).

What other interesting fact about this flower do you know? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below so that we and others can read all about it, we would love to hear from you!

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As we are in the heart of the spirit of Christmas, we wanted to dedicated this blog to highlighting also the wonderful works of art that artisans in Hidalgo created to represent this unique flower:

Mexican history culture and traditions

1 comment

Barbara

Barbara

I love Taxco and was there for my third visit in mid-November. Sadly this lovely display was not yet up, I would have loved to see it. It is so beautiful.
The Otomi embroidery is also so beautiful. Here in Canada we are required to wear masks, so I am still wearing my Otomi mask bought from you in summer 2020. I get compliments on it all the time from sales clerks.
That Christmas tree skirt in the photo is amazing.

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