As soon as the holiday season begins, poinsettias appear in markets, shops, offices and homes. Though they signal the start of a beautiful season, their popularity sometimes causes me to overlook their unique charms. In other words, I have a rather love-hate relationship with this ornamental plant.
I decided to offer my recently purchased potted poinsettia renewed attention, examining and photographing it from different perspectives for about an hour one day. The examination included rediscovering some interesting facts about the flower’s history and symbology.
In contemporary flower language, the poinsettia represents good cheer. Its association with Christmas reaches back to the 17th century when Franciscan priests in Mexico displayed the bright blooms in Nativity processions.
Even earlier, the ancient Aztecs valued the poinsettia, known to them as cuetlaxochitl, as a symbol of purity, as well as a red dye and remedy for fevers.
Its botanical name, euphorbia pulcherrima, means very beautiful, while its usual name derives from Joel R. Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) where the plant grows wild. An amateur botanist, he introduced cuttings to the United States, and thus the poinsettia’s commercial cultivation and popularity blossomed.
Though I may never fully resolve my mixed feelings for the common poinsettia, studying it through photography and research reminds me that nothing is ordinary and everything deserves due regard, as if being seen for the first, or last, time.