Poinsettias are originally from Central America, and the plant was known to thrive in southern Mexico, where it was called Taxco del Alarcon. The Aztecs found this plant blooming in winter, and they named it cuetlaxochitl. They used the plant to extract a purple dye, which was then used for coloring textiles and imparting color to cosmetics. The sap from the plant was used in medical preparations to treat fever.
For many years, poinsettias did not leave the borders of Mexico and this would have been the case had it not been for Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was the first US ambassador to Mexico. While Poinsett was a doctor just like his father, his first love was botany. When visiting Taxco in the year 1828, he noticed the plant with red blooms and was immediately drawn to them. So, he had some plants shipped to his greenhouse in Greenville, South Carolina and began propagating them. These propagated plants were presented to friends and botanical gardens across the US. (See Reference 1)
One of the propagated poinsettias was present to John Bartram, who handed over the plant to his friend, Robert Buist. Buist owned a nursery in Pennsylvania and is believed to be the first person to sell the plant as Euphoria pulcherrima, the botanical name of poinsettia. (See Reference 1)
Around 1836, the plant became known as poinsettia, and as we can decipher that it was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was instrumental in bringing the plant from Mexico and introducing it into the US.
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