Cuetlaxochitl a Mexica Flower

(Known as Poinsettia in the United States)

What is Cuetlaxochitl? It is a flower that is native to Tenochtitlan or Mexico City. The  Cuetlaxochitl can grow as high as 10 feet tall and its beautiful red flowers bloom in the winter time.. The winter weather in Mexico City is quite cold in December and January.

poinsettia plant

Beautiful botanical gardens existed throughout the Mexico empire in pre-Hispanic times. Flowers and herbal plants were cultivated for their beauty and medicinal purposes. From October to mid-May, the Cuetlaxochitl was admired and observed as it flowered like "birds aflame." Circa 1440-1446 

The Mexicas used the Cuetlaxochitl for curing fevers and in dyeing their clothes.

Most Mexicans know the Cuetlaxochitl as Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) since it blooms around Christmas time.

In the United States, the flower has another history and another name, but its origin is still Mexican. It all began when Joel Robert Poinsett was appointed as ambassador to Mexico. On Christmas day 1825, Ambassador Poinsett visited the Taxco church in Santa Prisca, where the Franciscans had adorned the nativity scene with exotic red flowers that gave it a very elegant and uncommon appearance. In the United States the flower is called Poinsettia since the ambassador brought the flower to the United States.

This flower along with chocolate, corn, avocadoes, peanuts, tomatoes, chiles, sweet potatoes and many other foods are gifts from Mexico/MesoAmerica to the world.

Cuetlaxochitl  is also a common female name in Nahautl.


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