Dahlia: The National Flower of Mexico

Beautiful and colorful, the Dahlia is the national flower of Mexico.

These gorgeous flowers come in various shades like red, pink, purple, yellow, and white.

They have a distinct shape with layers of petals that form a ball or a cone-like structure.

But they are not just pretty faces; they have an interesting history, as you’ll discover today.

Dahlias were first discovered in Mexico in the 16th century, and the Aztecs even used them for medicinal purposes.

Later on, the Spanish introduced the flower to Europe, where they were cultivated and hybridized into different varieties.

Today, we’ll be learning more about the Dahlia, its significance, and its history. Let’s begin!

national flower of mexico
Orange dahlias

What is the national flower of Mexico?

The national flower of Mexico is the Dahlia (scientifically known as the Dahlia pinnata).

The declaration was made in 1963, recognizing the flower’s importance to the country’s culture and history. 

Dahlias are native flowers of Mexico and Guatemala. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, from the classic round ball to more intricate forms like cactus or waterlily-shaped petals.

A field of multicolored dahlias

The Dahlia has deep cultural significance in Mexico, representing national pride, unity, and the country’s unique beauty.

The flower is often seen in Mexican art, textiles, and handicrafts, as well as in gardens and public spaces.

It’s a beautiful flower that captures the essence of Mexico’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Characteristics of the Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata)

The Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) is native to Mexico and Guatemala. These plants are widely cultivated as garden plants for their beautiful and showy flowers. 

Dahlia flowers come in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, yellow, orange, red, and purple, and they can vary in size from 2 to 12 inches in diameter. 

The plants themselves can range in size from dwarf varieties that grow to be 12 inches tall, to tall varieties that can grow up to 6 feet tall.

Dahlia plants have green leaves that are usually divided into three or five leaflets, and they prefer full sun and well-draining soil.

These plants are sensitive to frost and require protection in colder climates. 

Dahlia plants bloom from mid-summer to fall, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Their flowers are commonly used as cut flowers for floral arrangements, and the plants are also used as ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes. 

Purple dahlias

Early History and Discovery of the Dahlia

The Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) has a rich history dating back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico.

The indigenous people of Mexico, such as the Aztecs, are believed to have grown and used Dahlia plants for medicinal, food, and decorative purposes. 

The first recorded mention of Dahlia plants by the Europeans was in 1570 when Francisco Hernandez, a Spanish physician and naturalist, described the plant in his writings.

However, the Dahlia did not become widely known in Europe until the late 18th century, when the director of the Botanical Garden of Mexico City sent the plant to Vicente Cervantes, who worked in the Royal Gardens of Madrid.

In the early 1800s, Dahlia plants were extensively cultivated and hybridized in Europe, particularly in England, where they became a popular garden plant.

By the mid-1800s, thousands of different Dahlia varieties had been developed, and the plant had become a symbol of elegance and beauty in Victorian society.

Today, Dahlia plants are grown and enjoyed around the world.

The dahlia plants remain a popular and beloved garden plant that continues to capture the hearts of gardeners and flower enthusiasts alike.

Pastel pink-toned dahlias

The symbolism of the Dahlia, Mexico’s National Flower

The Dahlia is widely known for its association with beauty, elegance, and resilience, as it blooms in late summer and fall when many other plants have wilted.

Its large, showy flowers, which come in a variety of colors and shapes, have made it popular in gardens and floral arrangements.

In addition to the symbolism of beauty and resilience, the Dahlia has also been associated with other meanings.

For instance, the flower is often seen as a symbol of devotion and eternal love, with some people using it as a representation of the phrase “forever thine.”

This can be seen in the Victorian era, where the flowers were often given as gifts to express gratitude and appreciation to friends and loved ones.

The Dahlia’s symbolism also includes dignity and kindness.

The flower’s association with dignity stems from its impressive size and vibrant colors, which give it a regal appearance.

The symbolism of kindness, on the other hand, is linked to the Dahlia’s use in some cultures as a gift to show kindness and good wishes.

A field of purple dahlias

Uses of the Dahlia

The Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) has a rich history of use for various purposes.

Its large, showy flowers and wide range of colors and shapes have made it a popular choice for ornamental purposes, such as in gardens and floral arrangements. 

The Dahlia has also been used by indigenous people in Mexico like Aztecs who used the plant’s stems to carry water and used the flowers for medicinal purposes. 

While the Dahlia is not commonly used for medicinal purposes today, it has found its way into the culinary world.

The tubers of the Dahlia are used as a substitute for potatoes in some recipes. The petals of the Dahlia can be added to grain or green salads to add a pop of color.

They are also often used as a garnish for cakes, tarts, and pastries, and can also be served alongside cheese or desserts.

Furthermore, Dahlia flowers have been used to produce a yellow or orange dye that was used in traditional Mexican textiles.

Overall, the Dahlia’s uses are diverse and reflect its rich cultural history, with the plant serving ornamental, medicinal, culinary, and textile purposes at different times in Mexico’s history.

Pink dahlias in full bloom

Frequently Asked Questions About the National Flower of Mexico

📅 When was the dahlia declared the national flower of Mexico?

The Dahlia was officially declared as the national flower of Mexico in 1963, recognizing its importance to the country’s culture and history. 

📙 What are dahlias called in Mexico?

In Mexico, dahlias are commonly known as “Dalias” (singular: “Dalia”).

The name “Dahlia” is believed to have been given to the flower by the 18th-century Swedish botanist Anders Dahl.

However, the flower has been a part of the country’s cultural heritage for centuries.

🛕 What does dahlia mean in Aztec?

The dahlia was known to the Aztecs by a different name. They used to call it “acocoxóchitl”, meaning “flower of hollow stems with water.”

🌱 What is Mexico’s most famous plant?

There is no one single “most famous” plant in Mexico, but several plants that are highly recognizable and important to Mexican culture. Let’s cover just a handful of them.

Maguey, also known as the Agave plant, is another significant plant in Mexican culture.

It is closely associated with the production of Tequila and Mezcal, two of Mexico’s most famous alcoholic beverages. 

Ahuehuete, a species of cypress tree, is another well-known plant in Mexico.

The ancient Ahuehuete trees are revered as living monuments and are often found growing near important cultural and historical sites. 

Cempasúchil, or marigold, is a flower that is closely associated with the Day of the Dead, a significant cultural holiday in Mexico. 

Finally, the Dahlia, the national flower of Mexico, is famous for its striking beauty and is often used in traditional Mexican art and textiles.

Overall, Mexico’s diverse range of plants reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Orange dahlia

🇲🇽 What country is the dahlia from?

The dahlia is native to Mexico and Central America, specifically the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala.

The flower was first discovered in the 16th century by Spanish explorers who were amazed by its beauty and brought it back to Europe.

Final Thoughts: National flower of Mexico

As you can see, the dahlia is more than just a beautiful flower. As the national flower of Mexico, it represents the country’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. 

Whether you’re admiring the stunning flowers in a garden, using them in your cooking, or incorporating them into your art, the dahlia is a versatile and beloved plant.

The next time you come across a dahlia, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and the significance it holds as a symbol of Mexico‘s rich cultural heritage. Viva la Dahlia!