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Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, perennial plants native to Mexicomarker, Central America, and Colombiamarker. There are at least 36 species of dahlia. Dahlia hybrid are commonly grown as garden plants. The Aztecs gathered and cultivated the dahlia for food, ceremonies, as well as decorative purposes, 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 Swedishmarker 18th-century botanist Anders Dahl . In German the dahlia was known during most of the 19th century as Georgia, being named after the naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi of St. Petersburgmarker, Russiamarker.

History

Illustration of a Dahlia
F. 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. 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. Seeds sent from the botanical garden of Mexico City 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.

The introduction of the dahlia to the florists of the Netherlands was effected about the same time, when a box of dahlia roots was sent from Mexico to the Netherlandsmarker. Only one plant survived the trip, but produced spectacular red flowers with pointed petals. Nurserymen in Europe crossbred from this plant, which was named Dahlia juarezii, with parents of dahlias discovered earlier: these are the progenitors of all modern dahlia hybrids. The Jardin des plantesmarker in Paris received dahlias in 1802, again from Madrid. A second species, D. variabilis, was at last successfully grown in 1804 by the gardener at Holland Housemarker, Kensington, of Lady Holland, who sent the seeds from Madrid. An early breeder of dahlias was comte Léon-Charles LeLieur de Ville-sur-Arce, intendant of the château de Saint-Cloudmarker, its glasshouses and gardens, who had four varieties to work with, and by 1806 had produced three double-flowered dahlias.

Since 1813, commercial plant breeders have been breeding dahlias to produce thousands of cultivars, usually chosen for their stunning and brightly coloured waxy flowers. Dahlia was named the national flower of Mexicomarker in 1963. Dahlia plants range in height from as low as to as tall as . The flowers can be as small as in diameter or up to ("dinner plate"). The great variety results from dahlias being octoploids (they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, whereas most plants have only two).

Judged shows

Dahlias are often grown for judged shows. Awards are given for best in class and best in show. Traditionally, dahlias grown for shows have used intensive application of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. More recently, however, competitive dahlia growers have used organic methods with equally good results.

Gallery

image:ADELAIDEFONTANE.jpg|Dahlia 'Adelaide Fontane'image:APPLEBLOSSOM2.jpg| Dahlia 'Appleblossom'image:ARABIANIGHT.jpg|Dahlia 'Arabian Night'image:ARTDECO.jpg| Dahlia 'Art Deco'image:ASAHICHOHJI.jpg|Dahlia 'Asahi Chohji'image:ASPEN.jpg|Dahlia 'Aspen'image:AKITA.jpg|Dahlia 'Akita'image:AURORASKISS.jpg|Dahlia 'Aurora's Kiss'Image:Dahlia 'Heat Seeker' 01 Pengo.jpg|Dahlia 'Heat Seeker'Image:DahliaDahlstarSunsetPink.jpg|Dahlia 'Dahlstar Sunset Pink'File:Double dahlia.JPG|Double Dahlia.

Other names

The dahlia is also known as Tenjikubotan (天竺牡丹) in Japanese, which literally means 'Peony of Indiamarker'. According to the Japanese language of flowers, it means 'good taste'.

See also



References

  1. Harvard Arboretum
  2. Dahlia name
  3. Hernández, Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus (Rome, 1651); details of the introduction of the dahlia to European gardens are taken from John W. Harshberger, "The Native Dahlias of Mexico", Science, New Series, 6 No. 155 (December 17, 1897:908-910).
  4. Menonville, Traité de la culture du nopal et de l'education de la cochenille dans les colonies françaises de l'Amérique 1787.
  5. From the director, Sr. Vicentes Cervantes, according to Augustin Legrand and Pierre-Denis Pépin, Manuel du cultivateur de dahlias, "Introduction en Europe", Paris, 1848, p. 10.
  6. Legrand and Pépin, 1848:11.
  7. Lelieur, Mémoire sur le Dahlia, 1829.
  8. Irene Verag “Greener gardening”, Newsday, July 13, 2008


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