Dahlias are perennial plants with tuberous roots, though they are grown as annuals in some regions with cold winters.
Spaniards reported finding the plants growing in Mexico in 1525, but the earliest known description is by Francisco Hermandez, who was ordered by Spain’s King Philip II 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.
In 1789, Vicente Cervantes, Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent “plant parts” to Abbe Antonio Jose, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid. In 1791 he called the new growths “Dahlia” for Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist.
In the following years, Madrid sent seeds to various countries across Europe.