A-z - Animals

Discover Mexico's National Flower: The Dahlia

Keep reading to watch this amazing video

Mexico is a country located in the southern part of North America and is considered part of Latin America. The country is the third largest in Latin America, smaller than Argentina and Brazil, and lies to the south of the United States and to the north of Belize and Guatemala. Mexico is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the southeast. The country has a rich cultural history dating back to the Aztecs, the ancient Mesoamericans who lived in Mexico. This history influences many aspects of the country even in modern times. This history even influenced the choice of the dahlia, Mexico's national flower.

about mexico

mexican flag
Mexico is the third largest country in Latin America.

© Saurabh797/Shutterstock.com

Mexico is a unique country with rich natural resources, social and geographic diversity, thriving urban centers and a unique geography. Its geographic features include miles and miles of coastal beaches, islands and archipelagos, volcanoes, farmland, highlands and dry deserts. This land of contrasts and extremes features high mountains, great deserts and lush tropical rainforests. Mexico is located in the geological region known as the Ring of Fire, which means it is the site of significant seismic activity (earthquakes) and is home to major volcanoes. As a result, Mexico has seen some of the worst volcanic eruptions in recent years. Throughout history, these eruptions have shaped Mexico's topography and affected local ecosystems.

Today, Mexico is home to incredible biodiversity, with many unique species of plants and animals living in its temperate forests, grasslands, swamps, coral reefs, arid deserts and tropical rainforests. Not only does Mexico have the greatest diversity of mammal species and reptile species in the world, but you can also find thousands of tropical plant species and insects in parts of the country. In fact, Mexico is one of the countries with the greatest variety of butterflies and ferns of all kinds!

Mexico's diverse ecosystems contain a wealth of biodiversity, with the country's diverse ecoregions providing homes for thousands of different plant and animal species to thrive. Among them is the national flower of Mexico: the dahlia. Dahlias are actually a herbaceous perennial plant collectively known as "dahlias" native to Mexico and neighboring countries in Central America. This post will explore dahlias in more detail!

What is the dahlia, Mexico's national flower?

Mexico's national flower, the dahlia, is actually the scientific name for a group of plants in the genus Dahlia and the family Asteraceae . There are dozens of different dahlia varieties, and many different hybrids are often grown in gardens. Dahlias are native to areas around Mexico and Central America, but are popular for growing in many different parts of the world. Because dahlias come in many shapes, sizes and colors, these flowers are very popular in gardens, bouquets, flower arrangements and even floral competitions.

Read more  Lizard Poop: What Does It Look Like?

Dahlias are unique in that they grow from tubers. Tubers are underground organs that provide nutrients to plants. Like other tubers such as potatoes, dahlia tubers have been traditionally eaten and considered edible. Those who profess the value of eating dahlia tubers eat them raw or cooked, even though the skin on the outside of dahlia tubers is often considered unpalatable. They don't have a strong flavor, but that flavor will intensify over time as the dahlias are stored. Dahlias grow well in most garden soils and are a popular choice for North American and European gardeners.

What do dahlias look like?

Dahlia 'Maze'
Dahlias grow in "dinner plate" shapes up to 14 inches in diameter.


Dahlias are herbaceous perennials with 42 recognized species and many different varieties (hundreds). Their leaves are green, segmented, and toothed.

Most of the time, dahlias are grouped by type into 10 main categories. If you see a dahlia growing, you may find the blooms come in a rainbow of colors including red, orange, yellow, pink, purple or white. Dahlias also come in very different sizes, smaller dahlias are only 1 or 2 inches wide, while larger ones, such as the dinner plate types, can be up to 14 inches wide! Most gardeners grow dahlias as hybrids grown as root tubers.

Where do dahlias grow?

Dahlia flowers come from Mexico and nearby countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. However, the dahlia plant was brought to Spain from Mexico in the 1700's. At that time the genus was named "Dahlia" in honor of the scientist Andreas Dahl.

The high plateaus and mountains of Mexico are home to some of the original dahlias, originally cultivated both for their beauty and for their practical use as medicine and food. In general, dahlias do not thrive in extremely hot climates. They grow well in mild climates with full sun and moderate humidity.

Today, there are several main types of dahlias, each with a unique appearance. For example, you can find single-flowered dahlias (such as orchids, anemones, and collards), but you can also find double-flowered ones (cactus, semi-cactus, formals, informals, balls, and pom-poms). Dahlia pinnata , Dahlia rosea , and Dahlia coccinea were among the first species introduced into European cultivation, becoming popular among European gardeners in the 1800s.

Blooming in late or mid-summer, dahlias are late-season flowers that retain their vibrant colors throughout late summer and fall. Dahlias are herbaceous perennials . However, dahlias can be grown as annuals, especially when they are exported to colder climates. This allows gardeners to keep dahlia tubers indoors through the cold winter months and then replant them in the spring. In warmer conditions, gardeners can place dahlia tubers outdoors in soil year-round to allow them to bloom naturally again the next growing season.

Read more  Banana Ball Boa

Dahlias grow especially well in USDA hardiness zones 6 or 7.

What is the cultural significance of the dahlia in Mexico?

double dahlia
The original name of the dahlia is " acocoxochitl ".

©Olga Vasilek/Shutterstock.com

As the national flower of Mexico, the dahlia also represents the long, storied history of the country and the wider region. The original name of Dahlia comes from the Nahuatl language. In the language they are called "acocoxochitl", which comes from " a-ti " for water, " coco-tli " for tube, and " xochitl " for flower.

Ancient Uses of Dahlias

Historians can trace the cultivation and cultural significance of dahlias back hundreds, if not thousands of years. In ancient times, in the southern part of the land now known as Mexico, the Xochimilca were a complex agricultural society. They grow vegetables and other food crops, as well as flower gardens. Their gardens feature wildflowers, marigolds and colorful dahlias. Eventually, this ancient civilization was conquered by an even more famous civilization: the Aztecs.

Even during this period, dahlias appear in national symbols and cultural artifacts representing the Aztecs. They are used in religious ceremonies. In addition, traditional healers make them into medicines to treat various physical ailments. The Aztecs also ate dahlia tubers.

Ancient Beliefs About Dahlias

In the ancient Aztec culture, the dahlia was known as the flower of war. In their traditional religious customs, the dahlia is associated with a goddess known as the "snake lady" or "goddess of the earth". She was ordered by other gods to stab dahlias with agave leaves. Then she kept flowers on her heart all night. The next morning, the goddess gave birth to an adult god hungry for war and blood. This story is one of the reasons why the Dahlia symbol can be found on the helmets of warriors.

The Aztecs had advanced farming techniques and prized the beauty of dahlias. Legend says dahlias were prized flowers grown in the gardens of Aztec emperors and other wealthy landowners. Dahlia is known as the "God of Flowers". The Aztecs are said to have both sacred and practical uses in medicine and food, and thus bred new varieties of dahlias. They grow these in the garden. Wildflowers are also in bloom on the hills.

Modern Uses for Dahlias

Eventually, with the colonization of Spain, dahlia seeds were sent back to Europe to be planted. Scientists have created new varieties of dahlias, and new hybrids have emerged in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes. However, dahlias are still revered in what is now Mexico. It still symbolizes tradition and culture, but also represents unity, beauty and national pride. Thus, even today, dahlias can be found in Mexican folk art, fine art, textiles, clothing, and murals.

Read more  Lemongrass Plant with Lemongrass

Given the special place dahlias hold in Mexican culture and history, the government declared the dahlia the national flower of Mexico in 1963.

Where does the dahlia appear in Mexican culture?

Dating back to ancient times, flowers have played a central and important role in Mexican culture. During the holidays, you'll find locally grown flowers adorning the home. The most popular flower grows in home gardens, churches, cemeteries, parks and in the field. Some of these flowers have special meanings and are associated with ancient Aztec gods. These include three of the most popular and well-known Mexican flowers: poinsettias, yuccas and dahlias. Each occurs at a specific time of year and is associated with festivals such as Christmas and street celebrations such as the Day of the Dead and the Feast of Xochiquetzal.

The national flower of Mexico, the dahlia adorns various government buildings and objects of cultural significance. Dahlias are commonly grown around homes, outside markets, near public buildings and near parks. You can also find them in many schools and universities, as well as government buildings. There, dahlias appear as decorative motifs in architecture, paintings, and other ornaments.

If you visit Mexico, keep an eye out for dahlias! Since this plant blooms in late summer and fall, you can see it growing for several months. This includes celebrating the dahlia will add to the festive spirit during some of the famous Mexican festivals.

Dahlia 'Maze' among flowers
Dahlias are widely represented throughout Mexico.


What are other national symbols of Mexico?

Mexico's national flower, the dahlia is just one of the symbols of this beautiful and geographically diverse country. Some other symbols of Mexico include:

  • The Mexican flag consists of three vertical stripes of green, white and red. The national emblem of the eagle is in the center.
  • The national animal is the golden eagle, which can be found in many of Mexico's national symbols such as its flag and coat of arms.

Mexico is a country of unique culinary traditions, extremely diverse geography, rich culture and history, and great biodiversity. Among its wide variety of plants are many beautiful flowers such as dahlias. If you visit Mexico, keep an eye out for the many different colors and types of dahlias, and remember its rich cultural heritage. This article is just a brief introduction to this Mexican national flower. You can learn more! Why not try growing dahlias in your own garden?


  • Saw an alligator biting an electric eel with 860 volts
  • The 15 Deepest Lakes in America
  • Watch rare coyotes and bobcats now

More from AZ Animals

featured image

Dahlia "brazier"
Close-up of Dahlia sp. 'hot pot'.

© Wiert nieuman/Shutterstock.com

about the author

Carrie Woodward

Carrie is an author, nerd, and fan of plants and animals of all kinds. There are more than a dozen different houseplants growing in her apartment, and she hopes to grow even more in the near future. You can usually find Carrie walking along the shore of Lake Michigan, or reading a book under a tree in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

Thanks for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the 10hunting.com editorial team.