Tag Archives: Mexican native flora and fauna

Christmas in México—Poinsettias


Poinsettia gone wild!

Everyone knows that the poinsettia was adopted in the United States as a Christmas decoration when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.  So since this weed was so highly esteemed by the neighbors to the north, the Mexican too adopted this plant as a holy Christian symbol. 

However, it was valued prior to Christianity reached the shores of México.  The Poinsettia, or Cuitlaxochitl as it was known in Nahuatl, was used by the pre-Hispanic indigenous people to make clothing dyes.  It was also thought to host the souls of fallen warriors.

Then, during the 17th Century, a group of Franciscan priests settled near Taxco and began to use the poinsettia as decoration in the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre and most likely, in their Christmas celebrations.

A relatively modern story evolved to provide rational for its Christmas use.  There are several versions of this story about, and here is one more.

Once upon a time, a young boy was going to see the image of the Christ child at the altar in the local iglesia (church) on Christmas Eve.  He felt bad that he wasn’t able to bring any gifts to lay at its feet.  As he was walking, he saw a green leafy plant by the side of the road.   Having nothing else to bring, he picked the plant and went inside the church.  When he lay the plant by the image of the baby Jésus, it miraculously changed color.  It’s leaves turned bright red.   He knew his gift from the heart had been well received in heaven. From this day forth, this plant has been called La Flor de la Nochebuena.

Other versions follow the same story line, but the gift is given by a little girl. (The Legend of the Poinsettia)

Some versions of this story have the boy actually giving the plant to the baby Jésus like the Little Drummer Boy rather than visiting a local altar, but that just seems too hokey.  This plant is not native to Bethlehem and how a little Mexican indigenous boy found his way to Israel is beyond explanation, so the stories don’t even try.

However it came about, the NocheBuena is now a firmly entrenched emblem of Christmas in México.
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Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Holidays, Native fauna and flora

Natural Healing–Feverfew tea


These flowers just popped up in our backyard.

With so many wildflowers growing in La Yacata, at times, I am overwhelmed with being so under informed, not being a native and all. I am sure that these plants are useful, and not just another pretty face, but it has been difficult to find anyone that knows herblore anymore. My mother was always interested in herbs and I remember drying and using chamomile flowers. For that reason, when I discovered this plant in my backyard, I thought at first it was a type of local chamomile. Locals call is manzanilla, which is chamomile. However, upon closer examination, it seemed just a little bit different than the chamomile flowers my mother dried. Although the flower was similar, it had a flat center rather than a cone shaped one and thus it was feverfew, not chamomile after all. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is also known as also known as altamisa, amargaza, amargazón, arrugas, artemisa, botón de plata, botón de plata común, camamila de los huertos, camelina de los huertos, camomila de Aragón, chapote, flor de la calentura, flor de santos, gamarza, gamaza, gamazón, hierba de altamira, hierba de Santa María, hierba santa, madrehuela doble, madrehuela olorosa, madrehuela rósea, magarsa, magarza, magarza amarilla, magarzuela, manzanilla, manzanilla botonera, manzanilla brava, manzanillo, manzanillón, margaza, matricaria, matronaria, pelitre, Santa María blanca, yerba de Santa María in Mexican Spanich and in Aztec– iztactzapotl or cochitzapotl. Even with all these names, I wasn’t able to find any information in my Aztec medicine booklets. But I was able to find a page in another of my books in my small, but oh so useful library. The name feverfew is misleading since this plant has not been shown to reduce fever. However, it has been used for centuries to prevent or reduce migraines. It also has been shown to relieve muscle spasms and can be used a mild sedative.
drying flowers

Cut and hung feverfew drying for tea.

When I asked around, my local sources told me this plant could be dried and made into a tea. I wasted no time in cutting and hanging. I have periodic migraines, leftover from a car accident some 20 years ago, and my husband constantly complains about hernia pain even after his operation, so I figured this was the perfect tea for us.
dry feverfew

Dried feverfew

When the plant was finally dry, I crunched the flowers and leaves, discarding the stems and roots. It had a very strong herb scent, but I was bound and determined to make a tea. I admit the first cup of tea was so very strong that we had to choke it down. (I made everybody drink a cup). So the next cup, I tried adding local organic honey and our own organic raw goat milk to try and cut the flavor. We decided this tea wasn’t a tea for milk, so the third night I just added the honey and we all agreed that it was passably flavored like that. This plant is self-seeding and before we even finished the first batch, there were plants to cut and dry. This time, I am going to try and separate the flowers and leaves and try a tea with just the flowers. The leaves are pungent and make the tea a might bit strong for our tastes.


Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.


Filed under Health, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing