The poinsettia was brought to the United States from Mexico around 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett. An avid gardener and amateur botanist, Poinsett was appointed as the first US Minister to Mexico in 1825. While in Mexico, Poinsett observed this species flowering and sent plants back to his greenhouse in Charleston. Until that time, this species was unknown outside of its native range of Mexico and Guatemala, where it was referred to as flor de nochebuena (Christmas Eve flower). Once introduced to the U.S., it quickly gained the common name poinsettia, but is also known by many other common names including Christmas flower, Christmas star, lobster plant, painted leaf, and Mexican flame leaf.
This species has a reputation for being extremely poisonous. While there is little doubt that the milky latex of poinsettias can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, mucus membranes, or when consumed, to the digestive system, poinsettia is apparently one of the less toxic species of Euphorbia. Of reported human exposure, there were no fatalities.
Source: The Neighborhood Gardner, University of Florida
Poinsettia is toxic to cats and dogs and causes gastric distress.
Last week I found this planter of mixed poinsettias at Home Depot. I love the mix of white and red flowers. This isn’t a usual combination and I don’t know why. The mix is stunning. I put it on the dining table.