Dahlia

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30 species, 20,000 cultivars

Georgina Willd.[2]

Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, perennial plants native to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. There are at least 36 species of dahlia. Dahlia hybrids are commonly grown as garden plants. The Aztecs gathered and cultivated the dahlia for food, ceremonies, as well as decorative purposes,[3] and the long woody stem of one variety was used for small pipes.

Dahlias are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Angle Shades, Common Swift, Ghost Moth and Large Yellow Underwing.

The dahlia is named after Swedish 18th-century botanist Anders Dahl.[4] In German the dahlia was known during most of the 19th century as Georgia, being named after the naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Contents

History

Francisco Hernández visited Mexico in 1615 and noticed two spectacular varieties of dahlias, which he mentioned in his account of medicinal plants of New Spain, not published until 1651.[5] The French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville, sent to Mexico to steal the cochineal insect valued for its scarlet dye, noted the strangely beautiful flowers he had seen in his official report, published in 1787.[6] Seeds sent from the botanical garden of Mexico City[7] to Madrid flowered for the first time in the botanical garden in October 1789, and were named Dahlia coccinea by Antonio José Cavanilles, the head of the Madrid Botanical Garden, in his Icones plantarum, 1791. A few seeds were secured by Lord Bute and sent to England, where they flowered but were lost.

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