National Poinsettia Day: A look at the plant’s Upstate roots

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 10:44 AM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - National Poinsettia Day falls on December 12 each year.

Here in the Upstate, the plant has some deep roots. The very first poinsettia in the United States was actually brought right here to Greenville.

“It’s probably one of the most ubiquitous holiday decorations for hotels, for homes, for all over the United States,” said historian Cathy Cannon-Hubka.

Christmas trees and poinsettias-- the two go hand-in-hand when many think of Holiday decorations.

“The plant blooms in the wintertime,” said Kelly Toadvine, a Greenville County master gardener.

Back in the 1800s, Joel Poinsett was an ambassador to Mexico and brought the plant to the Upstate when he moved back to South Carolina.

“He saw this flower which in Spanish is called Flor de Noche Bueno,” Cannon-Hubka explained.

Toadvine says poinsettias need equal parts light as they do time spent in the dark.

“That’s what triggers them to produce the coloring in their brackets,” Toadvine mentioned. “Red is typical [coloring for the plant], yellow is typical and a pink or a peachy is typical.”

“This color came from the ancient Aztecs,” Cannon-Hubka said. “They used it for the production of red dye and to also cure fevers.”

The plant thrives in a tropical climate.

“In Mexico they can get quite large actually the size of a small under story tree,” Toadvine explained.

That doesn’t mean they can’t grow well here in the Upstate though. Just make sure to bring them indoors once the temperatures drop below 60 degrees.

Cannon-Hubka, who is also the Daughters of the American Revolution regent for the Nathaneal Greene chapter, says a Philadelphia botanist eventually renamed the plant to honor Poinsett.

While they’re popping up across the country this month, it’s always fun to remember their Greenville history.

“We were there first stop so to speak, so yes, I think that’s cool,” Toadvine added.

“We know that the poinsettia plant is a very big symbol that should say Greenville to everyone in the country,” Cannon-Hubka said.

Poinsettias are a mildly toxic plant, meaning they hardly lead to dangerous or fatal accidents. Still, it’s recommended to keep them out of reach of young children and animals.