The curious case of the Poinsettia, a mexican flower patented in the United States

Poinsettia: A Symbol of Christmas in Mexico and the United States
The story of the Poinsettia, from its origins in Mexico to its patenting in USA, reflects a complex interplay of culture, history and business

The Poinsettia, known as Cuetlaxóchitl in Nahuatl, represents a unique case in the history of botany and intellectual property. This flower, native to Mexico and globally associated with Christmas, became a patented product in the United States, sparking debates over ownership and cultural exchange.

In Mexico this flower is known as Nochebuena.

How it became a symbol of Christmas?

The story of the Poinsettia as a Christmas symbol began in Mexico. The Aztecs valued this plant for its beauty and religious significance, naming it Cuetlaxóchitl, which means “flower that withers”. Its use spread during the pre-Hispanic era, where the flower was not only decorative but also had medicinal and symbolic applications.

The transformation of the Poinsettia into a Christmas symbol is attributed to the Franciscans in the 17th century. They incorporated the flower into Christmas festivities due to its red coloration and December blooming period. The plant became an essential decorative element in Christmas celebrations, both in Mexico and other countries.

The meaning of the Poinsettia

The meaning of the Poinsettia encompasses various cultural and religious aspects. In Mexican culture, the flower symbolizes purity and new life, related to the beliefs and rituals of the Aztecs. In the Christian context, the Poinsettia acquired a new meaning: its red leaves represent the blood of Christ, and the star-shaped form of the flower is associated with the Star of Bethlehem, guiding the Magi.

A Symbol of Christmas in Mexico and the United States

The Poinsettia is a plant native to Mexico that has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas around the world. Its striking red, yellow, or white flowers make it a perfect plant for decorating during the holiday season.

In Mexico, this flower has a long history. The Aztecs called it “cuetlaxochitl” and considered it a sacred flower. They used it in their religious ceremonies and associated it with the blood of sacrifices.

Spanish Franciscans brought the Poinsettia to the United States in the 16th century. There, the flower quickly became popular as a symbol of Christmas. In 1825, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Joel Poinsett, brought a Poinsettia to Washington D.C. The flower was so appreciated that President Andrew Jackson planted it in the White House.

In 1937, the Ecke family, one of the main producers of Poinsettias in California, decided to patent the flower. Like the Franciscans, the Eckes took advantage of the fact that the Poinsettia blooms between November and January to associate and market it as a Christmas flower.

Since then, the Poinsettia has become one of the best-selling flowers in the United States. Poinsettia sales exceed 100 million dollars a year.

The Ecke family alone has created more than 100 varieties of Poinsettia, which are patented. This means that producers who want to grow these varieties of Poinsettia must pay royalties to the patent owners.

On several occasions, Mexican producers have insisted on abolishing this patent, as they consider it unfair that for a flower native to Mexico, they have to pay rights for its production.

The controversy over the Poinsettia patent is an example of the complex relationship between Mexico and the United States. On one hand, the flower is a symbol of Mexican culture that has been exported worldwide. On the other hand, the patent of the flower benefits an American company, which has caused discontent in Mexico.

It is likely that the controversy over the Poinsettia patent will continue in the future.

When is Poinsettia Day celebrated and why?

Poinsettia Day in the United States is celebrated on December 12th. This date commemorates the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and played a crucial role in introducing the poinsettia (Nochebuena Flower) to the United States.

Poinsett, a botany enthusiast, discovered the beauty of this plant during his stay in Mexico and sent specimens back to his home in South Carolina. His interest and efforts led to the poinsettia becoming popularized in the United States and eventually around the world as an iconic plant of the holiday season.

Poinsettia Day not only honors Poinsett for his contribution to horticulture but also celebrates the poinsettia as a symbol of joy and the Christmas spirit. The choice of this specific date reflects both the recognition of Poinsett as an individual and the cultural significance of the plant he helped to popularize.

In Mexico, December 8th is celebrated as National Nochebuena Day. This date honors the cultural and botanical importance of the flower in the country. The celebration not only recognizes the beauty of the plant but also its place in Mexico’s history and culture.

How to care for a Poinsettia?

Proper care of the Poinsettia ensures its beauty and longevity. This plant prefers an environment with indirect light and constant temperatures between 16°C and 21°C (61°F to 70°F). It is recommended to water it when the soil is dry to the touch and to avoid waterlogging. This flower also benefits from moderate ambient humidity and balanced fertilization during its growth season.

Are poinsettias sun or shade plants?

The Poinsettia prefers conditions of bright but indirect light. Direct sun exposure can damage its leaves. On the other hand, total shade does not favor its flowering or the maintenance of its characteristic coloration. A balance between light and shade is ideal for the optimal growth of this plant.

The story of the Poinsettia, from its origins in Mexico to its patenting in the United States, reflects a complex interplay of culture, history, and business. Despite controversies over intellectual property, the Poinsettia remains a beloved symbol of Christmas worldwide, maintaining its cultural roots and significance through the centuries.

YOU CAN READ: Elf on the shelf: 21 ideas de travesuras para el elfo de Navidad


Suscríbete al contenido premium de Merca2.0

De Madrid a la Ciudad de México, la fuente más confiable de estrategias de mercadotecnia a nivel global. Una mirada a las estrategias de las grandes marcas y las tendencias del consumidor.

Over 150,000 marketers signed up for our daily newsletters.



Over 150,000 marketers

Sign up for our newsletter and receive the most important marketing, advertising and media news in your email first thing in the morning.

More in Merca2.0

Related Articles

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.