Mexico's National Flower is the Humble Dahlia
With more than 30,000 native flowering plants to choose from, who would have thought that the humble dahlia would become
Mexico's national flower?
The earliest known description of the dahlia (known to the Aztecs as acocoxóchitl) comes from the Franciscan friar,
Bernardino de Sahagún, who arrived in New Spain in 1529. The Aztec name is believed to derive from "plant with tube-like stems"
and the Aztecs are said to have used them to carry water. The name was probably applied primarily to the tall, hollow-stemmed,
tree-like species now known as Dahlia imperialis.
Later in the sixteenth century, the dahlia is described in the Codex Barberini...
A wonderful early description of dahlias comes from Dr. Francisco Hernández (1515-87), the first trained scientist to be
sent to New Spain by King Philip II to research and describe the region's natural history...
At the end of the eighteenth century, a physician, Martin de Sessé y Lacasta, and José Mariano Mociño collect plants for
Mexico's Botanical Garden, recording their findings in Plantae novae Hispaniae. Vincente Cervantes, a colleague of
Sessé, sends some dahlia seeds to the famous Spanish botanist, Antonio José Cavanilles, in Europe. Curiously, Cervantes subsequently
became director of the Mexican Botanical Gardens, while Cavanilles later became director of the Royal Botanical Gardens in
The term "dahlia" is used for the first time in 1791...
© Copyright 2005 by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.