15-foot-tall poinsettia tree shares part of San Diego history

ABC 10 News KGTV
ABC 10 News KGTV

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Just in time for Balboa Park's December Nights event, the San Diego History Center debuted an enormous Christmas tree made entirely of poinsettia plants.

"It's 15 feet of beautiful poinsettia plants," says San Diego History Center Development Manager Sheila Thomas."

The "tree" contains 382 of the iconic red and green holiday decorations, all from the Weidners Garden in Encinitas. Thomas says it's been an instant hit.

"You can relate it to a child, maybe seeing snowfall for the first time," she says of the looks that people have when they first see the tree. "When (people) come in, they see the height of this tree and instantly they assemble the family for a family portrait."

In addition to being a great spot for a photo or selfie, the tree helps teach a unique part of San Diego's past.

Thomas says the indoor, potted version of the poinsettia that is most prevalent during the holidays was invented in San Diego.

"In 1825, the first poinsettia plant was introduced by the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinset," she explains. "Then in the early 1900s, The Ecke family then began hybridizing the plant and had the innovation to turn it into a house plant."

A picture by the tree shows the Ecke family and explains the connection. After the innovation, the plant's popularity grew. At one point in the 1900s, San Diego supplied more than 90% of all the poinsettia plants used in the US.

That number has since shrunk as the plant is grown in more places now. But Thomas says it's still a point of civic pride every holiday.

She hopes the tree entices a few more people to learn the history of the plant in San Diego. It's part of the Center's mission of "preserving, revealing, and promoting" the region's past.

The tree will be up throughout the month of December. Thomas says it takes hours to water it, and they have to use an electronic lift to reach some of the plants near the top. But it's worth it for the joy it brings to the community.

If you want to see the tree, during December Nights, the San Diego History Center will have extended hours, from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They're also open on Sunday from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Admission is free.

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