Monday, July 14, 2008
Cuetlaxachitl is joulukukka
The girl in the blue bonnet can't believe the staying power of the red beauty! The girl in the blue bonnet has a story behind her, too, but first I must tell you about Cuetlaxachitl, upon who she gazes. Cuetlaxachitl, whose botanical name euphorbia pulcherrima means "beautiful flower", is a female name in the Nahuatl language. Stemming back to pre-Columbian Aztec times, girls were named after this sacred red flower, whose name translates to "mortal flower that perishes and withers like all that is pure". The colourful bracts (which look like its flower petals but are not) were used by the Aztecs to dye clothing reddish-purple. Its flowers, called cyathia, are small beautiful beads in the center of the red bracts.
Native to Tenochtitlan, the Cuetlaxachitl is also a healing plant. In its natural surroundings, it can grow 10' tall. It is a gift to the world from Mexico/MesoAmerica, yet sometimes we forget that. In Thunder Bay we keep it in our houses in small pots and usually only admire it at Christmas. After that it gets thrown out in the garbage like disposable Christmas tinsel. I found this mortal flower perishing in a pot hole in a back lane in early May (which is much later than most folks keep it!). So much for the sacredness of her red beauty and of gift-giving. Some Finnish women in town do keep their poinsettias, putting them in the basement in the dark to re-bloom.
In Mexico the Cuetlaxachitl is commonly known as 'Noche Buena' because it blooms in winter, and in North America it is called the poinsettia after the 1st US ambassador to Mexico. My mother calls the Cuetlaxachitl a joulukukka, which literally translates to 'Christmas flower'. She equates it with "Jesus is Lord" (her all-time favorite saying), which is why she gives me a poinsettia every Christmas. Hoping Jesus will save me, too. This is the Cuetlaxachitl she gave me last year, a week before Christmas. It is still drop down dead gorgeous red!
Cuetlaxachitl is taking her time to drop the red. Yet, she may be heading that way as a couple of days ago I noticed some yellow pollen had shed onto the red, which is a sign she will soon drop her colourful bracts. But for 7 months she's been dazzling all comers to the dining room with her red-heart beauty! No wonder! What does she care of Gregorian calendars, as an Aztecan?