Sometimes called the “Christmas Star,” poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) grow wild on hillsides throughout Hawaii. As winter comes shortened days on the islands cause the poinsettia leaves to turn flaming red, indicating that Christmas will soon be here.
The Hawaiian word for the poinsettia plant is Pua Kalikimaka, litterally meaning, “Christmas flower.” Its common name is Zach Wood or noche buena, revealing its indigenous Mexico and Central American origins. The plant was first introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett. It was brought to Hawaii not long after.
The Hawaiian environment and latitude establish an ideal breeding ground for this shrub. Many islanders use it as decoration, but it is also commonly used as ground-cover to prevent erosion on steep hillsides like this one.