The botanist and physician is said to be responsible for bringing these plants to the country from Mexico.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
December 20, 2019
Poinsettia Flower Against Bokeh Christmas Lights Background
Credit: Constantine Johnny / Getty Images

Christmas season goes hand-in-hand with so many of our favorite traditions. Sure, presents are great and all, but is there anything that is better than walking into a room filled with poinsettias? We think not. From red to white to pink, poinsettias are a real sign of the season.

If you're a true fan like us of the popular Christmastime shrub, you've likely wondered how they got their spiffy name. As Reader's Digest points out,  the name honors Joel Roberts Poinsett, who served as the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and brought the plants back to his home in the states. According to the University of Illinois, Poinsett was a botanist and physician living in Charleston, South Carolina.

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In terms of why poinsettias are used so frequently during the holiday season, that has an interesting backstory as well. The plant's omnipresence during Christmastime is linked to a tale from Mexican culture, notes Reader's Digest in the same article. "A young girl named Pepita was sad that she didn’t have a gift to leave for the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve services. Her cousin tried to comfort her and said that Jesus would love any present from her, even the smallest one," writes Claire Nowak. "With no money to buy a real gift, Pepita picked a bouquet of weeds that she walked past on the way to church...When she got there, she left the weeds at the bottom of the nativity scene. All of a sudden, the weeds transformed into beautiful red flowers." What a beautiful story.

These days, you'll find poinsettias all over our homes, whether in a DIY Christmas wreath on our front door, a Christmas tree of sorts made up of the stacked plants, or serving as a centerpiece at the dinner table. Tonight, we'll be thanking Pepita for all their warm and wonderful beauty.