There is a legend of the poinsettia told in Mexico. A girl named Maria came from a poor family. She and her family looked forward to the Christmas festival. A large manger scene would be set up in the village church. There were parades and parties on the days leading up to Christmas.
She was saddened as her family had no money to buy presents. She wanted badly to give something to the church for the Baby Jesus, but knew her family could not afford to.Maria and her family set out for church to attend the service. As the members of her family outdistanced her, to Maria’s shock, an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel told her to pick some weds along the road to offer as her gift to the baby Jesus. The angel vanished, and Maris did as the angel suggested. She figured better the weeds than nothing at all. Other children teased her about her gift, but Maria ignored them. She set the green plants around the manger and at that moment, a miracle happened. The green top leaves changed into bright red petals!
This Christmas miracle legend of Mexico began in the 1600's. It’s been retold in many different ways over the years, including Caldecott Award winning writer and illustrator, Tomie dePaola. Though it is a lovely story, it is nothing more than a myth.
Actually, the poinsettia proves to be a sort of miraculous plant, as what appears to be the red flower petal isn’t a flower petal at all. It is a bract, or a modified leaf that turns red in response to the longer nights of November and December. Like the changing of the fall leaves with the longer nights, the poinsettia changes color in the same way.
The real flower is the starry yellow cluster at the center. Some poinsettia varieties grow as tall as ten feet high and its bracts range a rainbow of colors from red, white, pink, to even be pale green, or peach. The color will remain longer if the room temperature doesn’t go beyond 71 Fahrenheit. It is also important to note that wilted plants loose their bracts sooner. Another thing to do would be to keep the soil moist. Avoid overwatering the planet or letting it remain in standing water. Just take off the wrap and let the water drain. This will keep the leaves from dropping or curling. And don’t put outside, as poinsettias are sensitive to cold and won’t survive. Don’t fertilize while it is blooming either, bur after blooming season ends. To get a plant to reflower, keep it in darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., until the color reshows on the leaves.
Another myth concerns that the plant is poisonous. That is a misconception. A study at Ohio State University has proven a child of fifty pounds ingesting 500 bracts may get a slight tummy ache, but won’t die from it. Still, the plant should not still be eaten by people or animals.
Called La flor de la Nochebuena, or the flower of the Holy Night in Mexico, it was in the 1800's, that the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, noticed the plant and brought some cuttings back home with him to try to cultivate them in his greenhouse. Unofficially, the Poinsettia was named due to the biologist Poinsett. His cultivation development techniques are used in greenhouses worldwide to produce the favorite brilliant, crimson red poinsettia of Christmas.