Dahlia – Dahlia pinnata

Dahlia

Dahlia

They brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Opulent, flaunting.
Round gold
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Of maturity,
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball of proclamation…

“Autumn”–Amy Lowell

This popular garden flower is originally from Mexico and Central America. It has become restricted in the wild growing in mountainous regions. In rich damp oak and pine woods. An early Aztec herbal, translated to Latin around 1550, shows evidence that the tubers were used by the Aztec to treat Epilepsy. There is further evidence to show they used the petals as poultices. Before insulin diabetics were often given a form of fructose (‘dacopa’) found in the tubers, it was referred to as “diabetic sugar or Atlantic starch.”

At one time it was hoped that the dahlia tubers would develop into a viable crop for farmers to grow. Mashed and baked dahlias never caught popular attention though. But chefs found the colorful, striking appearance of the petals a great addition to salads.

An orange dye is obtained from the flowers and seed heads. Dahlia pinnata is the national flower of Mexico. The dahlia is the official flower of the city of Seattle. In the language of flowers specific dahlias have different meanings. According to Geraldine Adamich-Laufer they are:

  • double dahlia—participation
  • single dahlia—good taste
  • variegated dahlia—I think of you constantly
  • white dahlia—gratitude to parents
  • yellow dahlia—”I am happy you love me”
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