History, Ventura County

Pretty Poinsettias: The popular holiday plant played big part in local history

While Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day, the pretty and popular holiday plant has quite a history on a more local level, including in Ventura County.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, palm trees were flourishing and the City of Ventura had the nickname of “Palm City.”

But then poinsettias became a larger crop in the area, and at the urging of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, the city in 1926 changed the nickname to “Poinsettia City.”

That is when the fun began, with huge annual parades dedicated in honor of poinsettias.

Poinsettias growing at Cemetery Memorial Park in Ventura.

The Los Angeles Times described the annual poinsettia fete held on Nov. 26, 1925 in Ventura : “The white of a million blossoms against a flaming background of the red poinsettias used by many of the entries showed to its very best advantage here…The pageant, more than a mile in length, passed over the streets of the business section and was witnessed by a throng that lined the walks over the entire distance.”

In a December 1936 article in the Piru News, writer Mabelle B. McGuire wrote about Ventura: “Here the citizens are truly ‘Poinsettia-minded’ as they vie with each other to produce larger and more beautiful flowers. The main thoroughfare of the town is lined with the plants for blocks. Usually a few weeks before Xmas the blooms open and are at their best during Yuletide. No artificial seasonal decoration could be more lovely or more appropriate.”

Another article in the Piru News said that more than 12,000 poinsettias adorned the Ventura Chamber of Commerce float in the 1936 Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena.

Poinsettias became so popular that in 1928, a successful Ventura businessman named James Blackstock planted more than 12,000 of them near his home in downtown Ventura.

While many of the growers of poinsettias have left the area and demand leveled off, you can still see many of the plants still around Ventura, including at Cemetery Memorial Park and the Community Presbyterian Church, both on Poli Street.

A poinsettia tree grows in front of the Presbyterian Community Church on Poli Street in Ventura.

It makes sense why poinsettias became so popular locally when the plant has its roots from an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1825 (and later the founder of the Smithsonian Institution), loved the red blooms so much, he brought them back to the U.S. And the rest is history!

This year, the Ventura Parks and Recreation Department planted a beautiful display of poinsettias in front of Ventura City Hall to pay homage to the plant’s history.

Poinsettias planted for the holidays in front of Ventura City Hall.

Other areas in Ventura County also celebrate the plant.

If you’re in Camarillo, make sure to visit Poinsettia Lane growing on a quarter-mile stretch along Camarillo Springs Road on your way to Camarillo Grove Park. It’s quite a site to behold!

Poinsettia Lane in Camarillo.

Here is a video by Santa Jeff Claus, who visited Poinsettia Lane.

(Unless otherwise noted, story and photos by Michele Willer-Allred. Please contact mswallred2004@yahoo.com for permission to use this content.)