The Dahlia is a flower prized around the world for its ornamental beauty, but did you know that the Dahlia is a native plant of Mexico? There are at least 36 species of dahlia. Related species include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum and zinnia.
In Mexico the plants were used for a food source by the indigenous people, and were both gathered in the wild and cultivated. The Mexicas (Aztecs) used them to treat epilepsy, and employed the long hollow stem of the Dahlia imperalis for water pipes.
The plant was introduced into Europe in 1789. It was probably Abbe Antonio Jose Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid, who should be credited with the attempt to scientifically define this plant, since he not only received the first specimens from Mexico in 1789, but named the first three species that flowered from the cuttings.
The original name of the flower was Acocoxochitl in Nahuatl language (the language of the Mexicas or Aztecs), from a-tl (water), coconut-tli (tube) and Xochitl (Flower), although currently the name Dahlia is commonly used in most of the world except Russia and Ucraine where it is called georgina.
Today I read that the dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963. I didn’t know it, although I’m Mexican, so it’s a pleasant surprise to know that such a beautiful flower is our national flower.