The history of the dahlia is intrinsically tied to that of Mexico. For centuries, indigenous people used both wild and cultivated dahlias as a source of food, whilst the Aztecs believed them to be a cure for epilepsy and used the long hollow stems of certain types as water pipes. They were first documented by the Spanish in 1525, though didn’t make their way over to Europe until the late 1700s, after a French explorer sent to retrieve samples of a particular insect famed for its natural red dye came across a garden of dahlias in Oaxaca. The name ‘dahlia’ was given in honour of the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, though it was rooted in some controversy - there was an insistence amongst German botanists that the plant be named georgina, after their own star botanist, Johann Gottlieb Georgi. Ze Germans stuck fast to this and continued to refer to the plant as a georgina well into the middle of the 19th century.
Regardless of all that pesky, petty European bickering, the Dahlia is a striking emblem of its homeland’s desert beauty, and in 1963 it was named the national emblem of Mexico. Given the invasive impact of Europe upon the lands of central Mexico, there’s a certain satisfaction to be taken from the fact that the Dahlia is said to symbolise grace under pressure.
With relatives that include the sunflower, daisy and chrysanthemum, the dahlia is distinct in its own right: wavy petals that flare out in a manner akin to the mane of a lion, often featuring gradient colours for that tres cool dip-dye effect.