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Whose flower is this? Poinsett and “Poinsettias”

12 December 2004


Cuernavaca, Mor. – Tired to paying royalties to foreigners, floriculturalists and local authorities are working to produce a variant of the native Flor de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve flower) and to annul the U.S. patent American producers hold n this native plant.

The floriculturalists have already initiated genetic studies aimed at breaking the monopoly maintained in the United States by commercial producers over buds and cuttings, which they have held since 1828, when the first American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, obtained U.S. patent rights to the plant, according to Antonio Garcia, president of the Ornamental Plant Producers Association of Tetela de Monte (Protem, for its Spanish abbreviation).

Additionally, members of the State of Morelos Historical Society (CCEM, in Spanish), through its representative Victor Manuel Flores, have asked the Federal Secretary of Governance (Home Affairs) to review diplomatic treaties relevant to annulling the patent.

The proposal is supported by Cuernavaca mayor, Adrián Rivera Pérez, and State Secretary of Agricultural Development, Víctor Sánchez Trujillo, who have committed themselves to support the iniative to produce a version of the flor de Noche Buena that bears the name Morelos or Cuernavaca , at a Autonomous University of Morelos (UAEM, in Spanish) discussion.

State authorities support spending public funds to help breeders produce their own variety of the native plant and to propagate it, cutting the need to pay royalties to producers in the United States.

“A present example is the mole, a local chile patented in Japan. We have to breed a new variety, just to recover the name, said historian Flores, who considers it unjust that the Morelos growers and Morelos authorities have to resort to these measures just to recover recognition that this Christmas ornamental originated in Mexico.

Considered like one of the most elegant and beautiful exotic flowers in the world, the flor de Noche Buena delighted Ambassador Poinsett when he first saw it on Christmas Day in 1825, adorning a nativity scene in the Franciscan church of Santa Prisca in Taxco, Guerrero.

Captivated by the beauty of the plant, ambassador Poinsett sent cuttings as gifts to his friends in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. After returning to the United States, Poinsett registered the plant in his own name. The patent was later sold to Paul Ecker Ranch de Encinitas, California.

Sold throughout Europe and South America, the plant is also known as the poinsettia.

Poinsett’s Mexican biographer, the historian José Fuentes Mares, once said in an interview that “Poinsett left Mexico accompanied by a million curses.”The Morelos variety

According to the State Historical Society, a hybrid variety of the flor de Noche Buena has been commercially cultivated in Morelos since 1965, although local floriculturalists must buy authorized seeds and cuttings from the United States breeder.

José Antonio García, president of the Ornamental Plant Producers of Tetela of Monte, says that although Morelos is national leader in the production of the potted plants, they cannot export, due to international regulations that prevent Mexico from exporting soil.
Nevertheless, the producers are searching for alternative substrates (growing media) that will allow them to export potted plants, although the priority is creating a newly patented variety.

For this, the group has engaged a Tetela biologist specializing in genetics. As of this year, studies are incomplete. A second investigation has been undertaken by UAEM, backed by the Department of Agricultural Development.

“I believe that we must get a legal opinion. If Poinsett’s patent is upheld, then we must produce our own product. The Ambassador robbed the flowers and cuttings and patented them under his own name, knowing full-well of their Mexican origin,” said historian Flores.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    2 November 2008 11:07 am

    Hi, I´m a section editor at a magazine in Mexico City. It´s a new project by french publishing house Assouline together with local journalists and investment. For our nov-dec issue I´d like to write a little piece on the “Noche Buena”, I knew that it was a mexican flower and that the embassador poinsett carried it over to the US, I didn´t know that there was a patent on it though! Could you help me contact José Antonio García or tell me how things progressed since 2004? Thanks for the insightfull post! sarah

  2. 14 October 2013 7:04 am

    I was just reading on another site about propogating poinsettias, and found out some can be patented, but not how to know if yours is. My first reaction was, WHAT? Illegal to grow a cutting that came off my plant? It’s a PLANT, people! How can you patent a PLANT? Then I realized it was all about money, which immediately sucks the joy out of horticulture. I can’t believe we have gotten this far in civilization, as to patent a plant. I know Christmas has been secularized and commercialized a million different ways, but, Dear Lord, help us.

  3. 6 March 2014 10:13 am

    I love what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to
    my own blogroll.


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