The Poinsettia & Its Charleston Roots

Dec 1, 2021

This time of year, poinsettias are often seen on porches, flanking fireplaces and adorning businesses. They are one of the most recognized symbols of the holiday season but did you know that we owe this Christmastime flower to a Charlestonian?! Joel Roberts Poinsett was born in Charleston in 1779 and spent the majority of his life traveling the globe, from the European continent to Russia, Argentina, Chile and more. A  member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Charleston district, he was eventually appointed the first American Minister to Mexico in 1825.

On his travels to Mexico, Poinsett discovered what was known as the “Flor de Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve flower). An amateur botanist, he sent samples home to Charleston and the rest is history.

Today, you’ll see “poinsettias” displayed almost everywhere during the Yuletide season…even likely in your own home! National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on Dec. 12 in honor of Poinsett’s passing in 1841.