Today is known as Poinsettia Day, officially declared by an Act of Congress. It’s always on December 12. It’s in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett – the first American ambassador to Mexico appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820s.

Poinsett also happened to be a botanist, and in his spare time he would wander the countryside looking for new plant species, and he found one in 1828 – a shrub with large, red flowers -- growing by the side of the road. He took cuttings and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina and gave them out as gifts to friends. They have a scientific, botanical name, but because he was the one that introduced them to this country, they became known as Poinsettias.

Mexican legend says there was a poor Mexican girl who was sad because she had no money to bring a gift to church for the baby Jesus on Christmas. On her way to church, an angel appeared and told her to gather some of the weeds on the side of the road. When her tears fell on the weeds, they became bright, beautiful red flowers.

Today is known as Poinsettia Day because Poinsett died on December 12, 1851.