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What’s Red and White and Leafy All Over?

What’s Red and White and Leafy All Over?


With their large, predominately red or white leaves, the poinsettia is the botanical representation of Christmas. Right after the evergreen tree. And mistletoe. And holly. Wow, there are a lot of plants associated with Christmas, but the poinsettia is the only one that is deadly!

Not really. Poisonous poinsettias are a myth. While eating them can cause profuse vomiting, they will not kill you, or your pets. But really, they taste terrible so DON’T TRY IT!

Their blooms are actually leaves. In their native Mexico, poinsettias are perennial shrubs that grow up to 15 feet tall. But why are they considered a Christmas flower?

The poinsettia’s association with Christmas could be due to the legend of the poinsettia, a popular Mexican folktale. There are multiple versions, but the basic tale is about a young Mexican girl who was poor and had no gift to place on the nativity scene at Christmas. She created a bouquet out of ordinary weeds that she pulled from the roadside. When she placed them with the Baby Jesus, they became the vibrant red of today’s poinsettias! The red blooms became known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, blooming each year during the Christmas season.

Poinsettias were actually grown by the Aztecs long before the Spanish introduced Christianity to the native people of Mexico, but as early as the 17th century, they were used in nativity processions by Mexican priests because of their bright red color.

Today poinsettias are grown primarily in California. They have been created in many other colors, including pink, green, blue and even purple, but red is still a seasonal favorite.

Check out The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola or other fiction and non-fiction titles about poinsettias. Here are a few:

Watch this video from Access Videos on Demand to learn how to grown your own poinsettias.

Don’t have a green thumb? Make your own holiday crafts featuring poinsettias. Find instructions from the free Hobbies and Crafts Database



Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones's picture

I earned a BA in Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma. I enjoy writing about all of the great things the library system has to offer. When not penning articles and press releases about valuable library services, I hang out with my two creative children. We love to find interesting free things to do around Oklahoma and visit libraries and book stores wherever we go.

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