A Blog Post about Madagascar and its Floral Emblem

Poinsettia: More than Just a Christmas Ornament - The Surprising Meaning behind Madagascar's Floral Emblem

December 5, 2016

Add to Hatena Bookmark
English, Japanese, Malagasy

Hello again, Naho here. It's a little worrying how more than half of the year has already passed by before I even noticed. Every year towards Christmas there always seems to be endless amounts of work that need to be finished, and I fear this year won't be an exception...

Although often associated with Christmas, poinsettias are in fact the floral emblem of Madagascar - an island famous for its tropical rainforests. This may come across as somewhat surprising, yet this flower does appear to illustrate the typical Malagasy enthusiasm.

Red, White and Green: the National Values behind the Malagasy Triband

Poinsettias are widely known for their 'Christmas' foliage of red and green. However, for the people of Madagascar, the colors of red, green and white represent much deeper meanings.

Red is a signification of the country's sovereignty; Green symbolizes Hope for its people, and White is a tribute to the Malagasy characteristics of being honest and genuine. These combined values are what makes the national flag of Madagascar.

The red "flowers" of poinsettias are actually small leaves called bracts, the vivid color of which is created through photoperiodism as a result of lessened exposure to sunlight. Located near the equator, one might think that it is warm in Madagascar throughout the year. However, depending on the altitude and longitude, some places on the island may experience colder weather - the equivalent of autumn/winter in Japan - during certain periods of time. The unique location and weather conditions of Madagascar provide a perfect environment for growing poinsettias.

Another reason why Malagasy people feel so close to the poinsettia is because of the symbolic shape of its leaf. When folded in half, the shape of a poinsettia leaf looks just like that of the island of Madagascar. This coincidence might be the reason why the Malagasy believe that they share a destiny with the flower.

Wildlife Heaven: An Island Nation with a Vastly Diverse Ecosystem

The island of Madagascar, where poinsettias are broadly appreciated, is extremely rich in biodiversity. It is home to a great variety of wild animals, including different species of lemur. Furthermore, it features the popular tourist destination - the Avenue of the Baobabs, which, with its unique shape and the intensity of its trees, has somewhat become the symbol of Madagascar. When the weather is pleasant, one can see the beautiful silhouette of Baobab trees almost "floating" against the setting sun.

Listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, Madagascar's Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is famous for its Karstic 'tsingy' peaks - or, as the Japanese call it, the "Mountain of Needles that leaves Enma Daio (Lord of the Underworld) in awe". 'Tsingy' has meanings of "knifelike" and "cannot walk on bare feet". Essentially, they are limestone uplands cut into intriguing shapes through tens of thousands of years' weathering and dissolution. Visiting such a nature's spectacle would leave you overwhelmed by the mysterious beauty of planet Earth.

The Different Meanings of a Poinsettia

Amusingly, it wasn't the Malagasy who made the flower famous. Poinsettias were, in fact, named after an American diplomat called Poinsett, who discovered the lovely flower in Mexico and decided to introduce it to his home country.

In Japan, poinsettias convey the messages of "blessings" and "best wishes" that fit perfectly into the context of Christmas. However, it seems that in Western floriography, the interpretation of poinsettias is "to be of good cheer". With such wonderful meanings that come with them, it would be great to see poinsettias not only on Christmas, but throughout the year.

Related Services

Add to Hatena Bookmark
<< Exploring Moomin's Homeland of Finland and the Finnish Language Blue Cornflower (the "Kaiser's Flower"): Germany's Floral Emblem with Ties to Royalty >>

To Contact Us Regarding Our Translation Services

For urgent needs, call:

Back to Top