Mexican legends bloom in Britain for Christmas

Wild in the highlands of Central America, reaching a height of up to five metres, grows a vibrant plant known as Flores de Noche Buena – ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’. Treasured by Mexico’s people, it was first put to use by the Aztecs, adorning temples with its intense symbolism. Steeped in legend, it has since garnered a varied and celebrated global reputation, most notably as a favourite festive houseplant commonly known as the poinsettia.

Blood of an Aztec goddess

The Aztecs, who lived in today’s Mexico between the 14th and 16th Centuries, called the poinsettia plant Cuetlaxochitl, which means ‘leather flower’.It was used to embellish temples, and was seen as a symbol of new life for warriors who had fallen in battle, and also provided a healing plant and coloured dye. Aztec legend says that Cuetlaxochitl was the favouriteflower of Montezuma, the Aztec ruler. He believed thered stain on its upper leaves came from the blood of anAztec goddess who died of a broken heart. His legend spread all the way to Europe, where it most likely inspired the poinsettia’s French name; Étoile d’amour, or Star of Love.

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