Did you know that Legoland wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the poinsettiaplant? A poinsettia plant is a small Mexican shrub with large scarlet bracts. Poinsettia plants are native to Mexico and Central America where they grow in moist, wet, wooded ravines and on rocky hillsides. In 2002, Congress passed an act that made Dec. 12 National Poinsettia Day. That date was chosen because it was the day Joel Roberts Poinsett died.
According to the American Phytopathological Society, “It was introduced to the United States in 1828, when the first American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, noticed the fiery red plants flourishing in Taxco.” Poinsett was born on March 2, 1779, and died Dec. 12, 1851. Poinsett was a horticulturist—a person who works with growing fruits, vegetables, flowers or rnamental plants. Poinsett was an accomplished amateur botanist, so he brought a cutting from the plant from Mexico that was renamed the poinsettia in his honor.
An old Mexican legend that is associated with Christmas talks about a poor Mexican girl named Pepita. She was upset that she had no gift for Jesus at the Christmas Eve service. Her cousin told her that it doesn’t matter how humble the gift was, if it was given in love, it is acceptable. Pepita gathered together a scraggly bunch of weeds into a bouquet and she laid them at the nativity scene. They transformed into brilliant blooms of red. Those flowers are now known as Flores de Noche Buena, or the Flowers of the Holy Night, since they bloom at the Christmas season.
The Aztecs had a significant history with poinsettias. Poinsettias were known as the symbol of purity. They are said to bring the wishes of mirth and celebration. According to the 2015 Britannica Student Encyclopedia, in 1400 AD, the Aztecs used the milky sap of the poinsettia plant to control fevers. They also used the red bracts of the plant to create dye.
The poinsettia is a traditional Christmas plant thanks to the Ecke family. Albert Ecke, founder of the Paul Ecke Ranch, thought they would make good Christmas plants. The ranch breeds and grows poinsettia plants. Paul Ecke Jr. built the poinsettia into a Christmas tradition, giving samples to women’s magazines and promoting the plant on TV shows during the 1960s. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune , “The Ecke family used their assets to grow some of San Diego County’s most popular destinations including Legoland, the Flower Fields…,” etc. Ecke Jr. formed Carltas Co. and essentially gave away 180 acres in Carlsbad, California, to help form Legoland.