A holiday plant from Mexico

Poinsettias (pronounced poin-SET-ee-uhs) are popular plants at Christmastime. That's because they're usually red, one of the main decorating colors of the season. You may also see pink, cream, yellow, or bicolor poinsettias.

Poinsettias are native to southern Mexico, where they grow outdoors. The Aztecs, an ancient people, called them cuetlaxochitle.

In 1825, US President Andrew Jackson named Joel Poinsett as the country's first ambassador to Mexico.

Mr. Poinsett was interested in plants. He thought the poinsettia was so beautiful and unusual that he took cuttings from a large plant alongside a Mexican road. Then he brought them back to his home in South Carolina. He grew the plants in greenhouses that were heated in winter.

Poinsett told other botanists (people who study plants) about the Mexican plant with the lovely red blooms. When the plant became popular in the United States, it was named after Poinsett.

All plants have two names. Common names are the ones most often used in conversation and vary from place to place. Botanical names are often in Latin, and are the same worldwide. The botanical name of the poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means "very beautiful."

Sources: University of illinois Extension, www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/ poinsettia/facts.html; Paul Ecke Ranch, www.pauleckepoinsettias. com/history.html

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