The poinsettia is a genus of tropical American herbs and woody plants with inconspicuous yellow leaves and tapering bright red flowers. Especially popular around Christmas, the plants were brought from Mexico to the United States by a South Carolinian. That man, Joel Roberts Poinsett (1799-1851), had a fiery personality and style of living that matched the flamboyancy of those yuletide flowers. Poinsett brought a flower from Mexico that was renamed the poinsettia in his honor. He was the first to introduce the wild plant to floriculture.
   Poinsett was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and educated in Europe, but only somewhat. He matriculated in a medical school, then in a law school, dropped out of both and devoted himself to travel for seven years in Europe and and western Asia. President Madison sent him to South America to investigate the development of independence. But Poinsett's behavior was such that the British said, "he was the most suspicious character" representing the United States and "a scourge of the American continent, contaminating the whole population." Poinsett served in Congress when Madison was president, and became America's first minister to Mexico. Under president Martin Van Buren, he became the secretary of war. He had a pretty good record for a man who had been declared persona non grata in South America and had been lucky to escape with his hide unscathed.
   In any event, this gorgeously colored Mexican species, the poinsettia, takes its name from Poinsett and has become the floral symbol of Christmas, brightening, for more than a century, many Christmas hearths.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • poinsettia — [ pwɛ̃setja ] n. m. • mil. XIXe; poinsettie 1836; de Poinsett, botaniste amér. ♦ Plante ornementale (euphorbiacées) à bractées rouges, roses ou blanches en bouquets. ● poinsettia nom masculin Euphorbe ornementale souvent cultivée dans les jardins …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Poinsettia — Poin*set ti*a (poin*s[e^]t t[i^]*[.a]), n. [NL. Named after Joel R. Poinsett of South Carolina.] (Bot.) A Mexican shrub ({Euphorbia pulcherrima}) with very large and conspicuous vermilion bracts below the yellowish flowers. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Poinsettĭa — (P. Grah.), Pflanzengattung aus der Familie der Euphorbiaceae, benannt nach M. Poisette, welcher Mexico bereiste; Art: P. pulcherrima, in Mexico, Strauch, bei uns im Warmhause; P. albida ist nur eine Varietät davon …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • poinsettia — (n.) genus name, 1836, Modern Latin, in recognition of Joel R. Poinsett (1779 1851), U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who is said to have brought the plant to the attention of botanists …   Etymology dictionary

  • poinsettia — ► NOUN ▪ a small shrub with large showy scarlet bracts surrounding the small yellow flowers. ORIGIN named after the American diplomat and botanist Joel R. Poinsett (1779 1851) …   English terms dictionary

  • poinsettia — ☆ poinsettia [poin set′ə, poinset′ē ə ] n. [ModL, after Joel R. Poinsett (1779 1851), U.S. ambassador to Mexico] a Mexican and Central American plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) of the spurge family, with yellow flowers surrounded by tapering red… …   English World dictionary

  • Poinsettia — Poinsettia …   Wikipédia en Français

  • poinsettia — /poyn set ee euh, set euh/, n. a plant, Euphorbia (Poinsettia) pulcherrima, of the spurge family, native to Mexico and Central America, having variously lobed leaves and brilliant scarlet, pink, or white petallike bracts. [1830 40; < NL, named… …   Universalium

  • poinsettia — puošniausioji karpažolė statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Karpažolinių šeimos dekoratyvinis, vaistinis nuodingas augalas (Euphorbia pulcherrima), paplitęs Šiaurės ir Pietų Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Euphorbia pulcherrima angl. Christmas… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • poinsettia — po·in·sèt·tia s.f. TS bot. pianta del sottogenere Poinsettia, erbacea, con infiorescenze disposte in cime circondate da vistose brattee vivacemente colorate, originaria del continente americano | con iniz. maiusc., in alcune classificazioni,… …   Dizionario italiano

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