Dahlias are all about adventurous journeys, explorations and exotic places. Originally from Mexico, this fascinating plant was already appreciated as a food crop by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times. They called it acocotli or cocoxochitl and ate its fleshy tubers. In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in Central America came across wild Dahlia species with brightly coloured flowers. However, in the late 18th century, this marvellous plant was shipped across the ocean and reached Europe, where it was renamed “Dahlia”, as a tribute to Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, a pupil of Linnaeus.
Partly due to a marked tendency to hybridise, the botanists of the time shaped Dahlias into different forms and colours: not only single flower specimens, but also two flower specimens became widespread, then pompon ones, followed by anemone flower specimens and, finally, cactus flower ones. It was a resounding success – the hybrids were highly sought after and the tubers very expensive – which reached its peak at the 1851 Universal Exhibition in London, where visitors from all walks of life had the chance to admire several specimens.