Fun Facts about Dahlias
I've always found it intriguing to study the history, floriography, and meaning of the botanicals I grow in my garden. Dahlias, which just begin to hit their stride in my garden in August, have been my latest obsession. To me, they are the flower of September, continuing to bloom long after the majority of the garden has faded and right up until the first frost. Here are 10 fun facts I've recently learned about dahlias!
- Dahlias were first officially recorded by Spanish botanists in 1615 in Mexico and Guatamala, though artwork from generations prior suggest that they were being grown and used by Aztecs much earlier than that. The first garden dahlias reached Great Britain from Spain in 1798 and subsequently, the United States in the early 1830s.
- The dahlia is the national flower of Mexico and, for centuries, was called by their Mexican name, acoctli.
- The dahlia is named after the Swedish 18th century botanist Anders Dahl, a controversial subject in and of itself considering he definitely didn’t discover them and even incorrectly declared the flower a vegetable!
- The tubers are edible! I haven't tried them myself but have been told they taste like a cross between a carrot and a potato. Have you ever tried one? Bon appetite!
- Dahlias actually belong to the aster family (Asteraceae) along with sunflowers, daisies, chrysanthemums and zinnias! Asteraceae refers to the appearance of a star with surrounding rays, quite befitting of this list of gorgeous blooms.
- Botanically speaking, the dahlia symbolizes dignity, eternal love, and commitment. Most recently, dahlias have also been associated with kindness and tied to steadfastness for their ability to bloom long after the majority of your garden has faded.
- Dahlias vary in height, leaf color, form, size, color and shape. This is because dahlias are octoploids, meaning they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, where most plants have only two.
- Before insulin, the tubers of dahlias were considered medicinal, being used to balance blood sugar due to their high fructose content. The petals were used to treat dry skin, bug bites, infections and rashes. The Aztecs were also said to have used their hallow stems as straws.
- There is no such thing as a blue dahlia.
- The majority of dahlias are not scented but their vibrant beautiful colors attract plenty of pollinators. I couldn’t imagine my pollinator garden without them!
Now the next time a dahlia question comes on Jeopardy, perhaps you’ll know the answer!