The poinsettia, also known as the Mexican flame leaf or Christmas star (Euphorbia pulcherrima), is a plant known for its striking red displays at Christmas time. It is often used as a floral Christmas decoration because of its festive colours.
The "flowers" are actually large bunches of coloured leaves (modified bracts); the flowers themselves are in the center of each leaf bunch, but rather small and inconspicuous. Cultivars have been produced with orange, pale green, cream and marbled leaves.
Poinsettias are native to southern Mexico and Central America, where they may reach heights of sixteen feet. They are named after Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the first United States ambassador to Mexico.
A Mexican legend explains how poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas. Apparently, a child who could not afford a gift to offer to Christ on Christmas Eve picked some weeds from the side of a road. The child was told that a humble gift, if given in love, would be acceptable in God's eyes. When brought into the church, the weeds bloomed into red and green flowers and the congregation felt they had witnessed a Christmas miracle.