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From Mexico to Spain and Holland:  Dahlia, Bad Zwischenahn, Germany | by Rana Pipiens
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From Mexico to Spain and Holland: Dahlia, Bad Zwischenahn, Germany

... which the Quauhnahuascenses call Acocotli and the Tepozthlanenses Chicihipatli: thus Francisco Hernández (1515-1587) describes the first European sighting of what we call dahlias in the Sierra de Ajusco in the south of the Federal District of Mexico. And an exemplar was drawn by his 'cosmographer', Francisco Dominguez. They had been sent by king Philip II of Spain to catalogue the natural history of the young Spanish colony. But the first full taxonomic description of the dahlia wasn't given until the work of Antonio José Cavanilles (1746-1804), director of Madrid's Botanic Garden. He also provided seeds to French horticulturalists, and the original dahlia quickly spread throughout Europe. Cavanilles had named the Mexican flower for Anders Dahl (1751-1789), a Swedish student of the famed Carolus Linnaeus.

In 1872 an entirely different dahlia appeared on the scene. A Dutch horticulturalist J.T. van den Berg (of Utrecht) received a shipment of plants from Mexico sent to him by a friend, the gardener R.C. Affourtit (who had published a translation into Dutch of an English vegetable gardening manual in 1856). Only a single tuber survived the transatlantic voyage and it yielded up a doubled dahlia of intensive red. Affourtit had named it Dahlia juarezii, after the much beloved native-Mexican president Benito Pablo Juárez (1806-1872), who had just died. This dahlia is the parent of all so-called 'cactus type' dahlias in Europe. Soon it was crossbred with the 'Spanish' kinds, and an entire industry of beauty was born.

This photo was taken in the Park der Gärten near Bad Zwischenahn in Lower Saxony, northern Germany. The day was sunny, and the enormous dahlia beds sparklingly inundated us in bright color.


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Taken on July 30, 2008