We are often asked about poinsettia history and poinsettia lore. Here are two very interesting stories.
Many, many years ago in rural Mexico it was the night of the procession when all the children in the village lined up to take their gifts to the baby Jesus. It was a proud night and all the children reveled. All the children excepting Maria Garcia. She was crying because her family had no money, even for themselves, let alone to give Maria something to take to the Baby Jesus. As she walked with all the children along the country lane to the church her tears fell on the ground. At one point she left the procession a bit to sob by herself. And as the tears fell on the plants beneath her feet, a group of them suddenly turned to bright red. Maria snapped them up and ran to catch up with the procession. Everyone in the village that night was convinced that Maria had given the Baby Jesus the most beautiful gift of all, the Flower of Christmas.
In more recent times, in the 1860’s, the U.S, Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinset saw the plants along the highways and byways, dug some and sent them to his home plantation in South Carolina where they flourished and were transported to states along the Gulf Coast and across Texas. By the early 20th century they caught the fancy of a recent immigrant, a German with a Mexican wife. Paul Ecke began growing them and selling them in the southern California flower markets. As his business grew, so did his fame and his gardens. By the 1940’s it had become a major plant across the U.S. at Christmastime. Because of his plant breeding and growing ability, most of the plants originated on that Ecke Ranch.
After WW II his son Paul took over the business and expanded it greatly. Today, nearly every poinsettia grown in the world can trace its origin back to that place in Encinitas, California. (The ranch has patented most of those varieties, so for every plant propagated across the globe, a nickel or so finds it’s way to the Ecke Ranch. Some ten years ago, Paul the Third took the reins of the business and has led it into many further successes, with longer lasting plants a beautiful palette of colors and forms.