|Pic courtezy Expo 2016 Antalya|
Dahlia (UK /deɪliə/ or US /dɑːliə/) is a genus of bushy, tuberous, herbaceous perennial plants native mainly in Mexico, but also Central America, and Colombia. A member of the Asteraceae (or Compositae), dicotyledonous plants, related species include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum and zinnia. There are 42 species of dahlia, with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants. Flower forms are variable, with one head per stem; these can be as small as 2 in (5.1 cm) diameter or up to 1 ft (30 cm) ("dinner plate"). This great variety results from dahlias being octoploids—that is, they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, whereas most plants have only two. In addition, dahlias also contain many transposons—genetic pieces that move from place to place upon an allele—which contributes to their manifesting such great diversity.
The stems are leafy, ranging in height from as low as 12 in (30 cm) to more than 6–8 ft (1.8–2.4 m). The majority of species do not produce scented flowers or cultivars. Like most plants that do not attract pollinating insects through scent, they are brightly colored, displaying most hues, with the exception of blue.
The dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963. The tubers were grown as a food crop by the Aztecs, but this use largely died out after the Spanish Conquest. Attempts to introduce the tubers as a food crop in Europe were unsuccessful.
Perennial plants, with mostly tuberous roots. While some have herbaceous stems, others have stems which lignify in the absence of secondary tissue and resprout following winter dormancy, allowing further seasons of growth.
Spaniards reported finding the plants growing in Mexico in 1525, but the earliest known description is by Francisco Hernández, physician to Philip II, who was ordered to visit Mexico in 1570 to study the "natural products of that country". They were used as a source of food by the indigenous peoples, and were both gathered in the wild and cultivated. The Aztecs used them to treat epilepsy, and employed the long hollow stem of the (Dahlia imperalis) for water pipes. The indigenous peoples variously identified the plants as "Chichipatl" (Toltecs) and "Acocotle" or "Cocoxochitl" (Aztecs). From Hernandez' perception of Aztec, to Spanish, through various other translations, the word is "water cane", "water pipe", "water pipe flower", "hollow stem flower" and "cane flower". All these refer to the hollowness of the plants' stem.
Hernandez described two varieties of dahlias (the pinwheel-like Dahlia pinnata and the huge Dahlia imperialis) as well as other medicinal plants of New Spain. Francisco Dominguez, a Hidalgo gentleman who accompanied Hernandez on part of his seven-year study, made a series of drawings to supplement the four volume report. Three of his drawings showed plants with flowers: two resembled the modern bedding dahlia, and one resembled the species Dahlia merki; all displayed a high degree of doubleness. In 1578 the manuscript,entitled Nova Plantarum, Animalium et Mineralium Mexicanorum Historia, was sent back to the Escorial in Madrid; they were not translated into Latin by Francisco Ximenes until 1615. In 1640, Francisco Cesi, President of the Academia Linei of Rome, bought the Ximenes translation, and after annotating it, published it in 1649-1651 in two volumes as Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus Seu Nova Plantarium, Animalium et Mineraliuím Mexicanorum Historia. The original manuscripts were destroyed in a fire in the mid-1600s.
In 1787, the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville, sent to Mexico to steal the cochineal insect valued for its scarlet dye, reported the strangely beautiful flowers he had seen growing in a garden in Oaxaca. In 1789, Vicente Cervantes, Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent "plant parts" to Abbe Antonio José Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid. Cavanilles flowered one plant that same year, then the second one a year later. In 1791 he called the new growths "Dahlia" for Anders Dahl. The first plant was called Dahlia pinnata after its pinnate foliage; the second, Dahlia rosea for its rose-purple color. In 1796 Cavanilles flowered a third plant from the parts sent by Cervantes, which he named Dahlia coccinea for its scarlet color.
In 1798, Cavanilles sent D. Pinnata seeds to Parma, Italy. That year, the Marchioness of Bute, wife of The Earl of Bute, the English Ambassador to Spain, obtained a few seeds from Cavanilles and sent them to Kew Gardens, where they flowered but were lost after two to three years.
In the following years Madrid sent seeds to Berlin and Dresden in Germany, and to Turin and Thiene in Italy. In 1802, Cavanilles sent tubers of "these three" (D. pinnata, D. rosea, D. coccinea) to Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle at University of Montpelier in France, Andre Thouin at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and Scottish botanist William Aiton at Kew Gardens. That same year, John Fraser, English nurseryman and later botanical collector to the Czar of Russia, brought D. coccinea seeds from Paris to the Apothecaries Gardens in England, where they flowered in his greenhouse a year later, providing Botanical Magazine with an illustration.
In 1804, a new species, Dahlia sambucifolia, was successfully grown at Holland House, Kensington. Whilst in Madrid in 1804, Lady Holland was given either dahlia seeds or tubers by Cavanilles. She sent them back to England, to Lord Holland's librarian Mr Buonaiuti at Holland House, who successfully raised the plants. A year later, Buonaiuti produced two double flowers. The plants raised in 1804 did not survive; new stock was brought from France in 1815. In 1824, Lord Holland sent his wife a note containing the following verse:
"The dahlia you brought to our isle
Your praises for ever shall speak;
Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,
And in colour as bright as your cheek."In 1805, German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt sent more seeds from Mexico to Aiton in England, Thouin in Paris, and Christoph Friedrich Otto, director of the Berlin Botanical Garden. More significantly, he sent seeds to botanist Carl Ludwig Willdenow in Germany. Willdenow now reclassified the rapidly growing number of species, changing the genus from Dahlia to Georgina; after naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi. He combined the Cavanilles species D. pinnata and D. rosea under the name of Georgina variabilis; D. coccinea was still held to be a separate species, which he renamed Georgina coccinea.
Since 1789 when Cavanilles first flowered the dahlia in Europe, there has been an ongoing effort by many growers, botanists and taxonomists, to determine the development of the dahlia to modern times. At least 85 species have been reported: approximately 25 of these were first reported from the wild, the remainder appeared in gardens in Europe. They were considered hybrids, the results of crossing between previously reported species, or developed from the seeds sent by Humboldt from Mexico in 1805, or perhaps from some other undocumented seeds that had found their way to Europe. Several of these were soon discovered to be identical with earlier reported species, but the greatest number are new varieties. Morphological variation is highly pronounced in the dahlia. William John Cooper Lawrence, who hybridized hundreds of families of dahlias in the 1920s, stated: "I have not yet seen any two plants in the families I have raised which were not to be distinguished one from the other. Constant reclassification of the 85 reported species has resulted in a considerably smaller number of distinct species, as there is a great deal of disagreement today between systematists over classification.
In 1829, all species growing in Europe were reclassified under an all-encompassing name of D. variabilis, Desf., though this is not an accepted name. Through the interspecies cross of the Humboldt seeds and the Cavanilles species, 22 new species were reported by that year, all of which had been classified in different ways by several different taxonomists, creating considerable confusion as to which species was which.
In 1830 William Smith suggested that all dahlia species could be divided into two groups for color, red-tinged and purple-tinged. In investigating this idea Lawrence determined that with the exception of D. variabilis, all dahlia species may be assigned to one of two groups for flower-colour: Group I (ivory-magenta) or Group II (yellow-orange-scarlet).
The inappropriate term D. variabilis is often used to describe the cultivars of Dahlia since the correct parentage remains obscure, but probably involves Dahlia coccinea.
In 1846 the Caledonia Horticultural Society of Edinburgh, offered a prize of 2,000 pounds to the first person succeeding in producing a blue dahlia. This has to date not been accomplished. While dahlias produce anthocyanin, an element necessary for the production of the blue, to achieve a true blue color in a plant, the anthocyanin delphinidin needs six hydroxyl groups. To date dahlias have only developed five, so the closest that breeders have come to achieving a "blue" specimen are variations of mauve, purples and lilac hues.
Dahlias grow naturally in climates which do not experience frost (the tubers are hardy to USDA Zone 8), consequently they are not adapted to withstand sub-zero temperatures. However their tuberous nature enables them to survive periods of dormancy, and this characteristic means that gardeners in temperate climates with frosts can grow dahlias successfully, provided the tubers are lifted from the ground and stored in cool yet frost-free conditions during the winter. Planting the tubers quite deep (10 – 15 cm) also provides some protection. When in active growth, modern dahlia hybrids perform most successfully in well-watered yet free-draining soils, in situations receiving plenty of sunlight. Taller cultivars usually require some form of staking as they grow, and all garden dahlias need deadheading regularly, once flowering commences.
To date, 99 dahlia cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit,