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Cologne on the Rhine / remarqued (Paul McGehee)
Cologne on the Rhine / remarqued (Paul McGehee)
Poinsettias (Paul McGehee)

"Poinsettias" by Paul McGehee. The beautiful tropical plant now associated with the Christmas holiday is originally from Mexico and Central America. The bright red and green plant was first called "cuetlaxochitl" by the Aztecs. To those early inhabitants of Mexico it represented purity...its name meant "flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure." They grow wild not only in Mexico but in the jungles of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and have spread to South America and the Caribbean region as well. Thriving in the tropic heat, these plants can grow to enormous proportions...some being 15' in height. A legend dating back to the 1500s explains the possible origin of the flower's association with Christmas. Franciscan friars in the area of Taxco, Mexico celebrated one Christmas with a lavishly decorated nativity scene. As the townspeople gathered, gifts were exchanged and a mass was held during which something amazing happened: the whitish-green flowers decorating the nativity scene turned bright red! After that the flower was named "Flor de Nochebuena," or "Flower of the Blessed Night." The plant was initially introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, Congressman from South Carolina, Secretary of War in the 1830s under President Martin Van Buren and the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett's background was in medicine, but he was also an architect and botanist. Throughout his professional career, Poinsett traded seeds with fellow hobbyists in exotic lands. One Christmas, while passing through the Taxco region he saw the plants being used in their religious displays. He was completely taken by their beauty. Poinsett had some of the plants shipped back to his plantation in South Carolina, where they thrived in his greenhouses. After his success at raising the tropical flowers, he began to promote them and give them as gifts to fellow botanists and scientific institutions. They were henceforth known as the "poinsettias," so named in his honor. After his years of public service had ended, Poinsett made a fortune cultivating poinsettias for Americans to use as holiday decorations, first becoming a popular symbol of the holiday season in the south and then spreading northward. After his death in 1851, the tradition had taken this day, poinsettias can be seen in every household, place of business and place of worship during Christmastime. December 12th is now known as Poinsettia Day, honoring the plant's namesake on the day that he died. What of Poinsett's legacy? Poinsettias are still the number one most popular potted plant sold in the United States, with over 70 million being purchased each year nationwide. "Poinsettias" is faithfully reproduced as an archival-quality print from McGehee's original color pencil drawing, each hand-signed by the artist. Edition size 500 S/N. Print image size: 13 3/4" x 11 1/4".

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