La Cuetlaxochitl became the most famously misnamed holiday flower

Poinsettias are everywhere. You can purchase them at a local nursery, grocery store, pharmacy, home improvement chain, or anywhere. But poinsettias are a misnomer, or rather, the capitalist name. La Cuetlaxochitl is the original real name of these stunning plants with red, yellow, pink, or white bracts, some solid and streaked, others marbled and multicolored, within a deep forest flower green context. Long used for medicine, ceremonies, and as a dye for centuries by Nahuatl-speaking peoples, and in a similar process to the emergence of the Day of the Dead as a hybrid Catholic/Indigenous ritual, cuetlaxochitl became known as "la flor de Nochebuena," the Christmas Eve flower.

How did la cuetlaxochitl become poinsettias? Well, as with many renamings, this had to do with the whims and desires of elites, in this case, the first Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett was an ardent supporter of the Monroe Doctrine, i.e., the belief that the continent belonged to the Americans (USians, to be more precise). This was when slaveholders were in charge of foreign and domestic policy. Poinsett was also a botanist, and his wife was enamored with the plant and so Greenville, South Carolina soil, toiled and worked by the enslaved people Poinsett owned, was the new earth to receive the cuetlaxochitl seed. Soon, the flowers were mass-produced and renamed.

Cuetlaxochitls are everywhere. For a children's book, check out The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story. This Medium article, "Poinsettia: the Christmas flower and the racist history behind La Cuetlaxochitl," expands on the outline above.