Poinsett's legacy lives on in Christmas flower


December 27, 2023

By Tom Emery

Some say it just isn’t Christmas without the poinsettia, a colorful addition to the holiday season. Outside of his native state, the flower’s namesake has been lost to history.

The plant is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, who distributed cuttings of the flower he found during a diplomatic excursion. Botany was one of many interests for Poinsett, a renaissance man ahead of his time.

Born on March 2, 1779 in Charleston, S.C., Poinsett was educated in England and spoke six languages. One scholar described him as “socially skilled,...

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