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In Bloom

Dahlia spp. Tree dahlia
 
Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden

Dahlia spp. Photo by James Gaither.

Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by James Gaither Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by James Gaither Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Far Out Flora Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Dahlia spp. at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor

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You must look up high to see tree dahlias! They bloom at the top of slender 20-foot stems. The petals are up to six inches long and ray shaped, and can be found in shades of pink and purple with golden disc florets in their centers which physically define their lineage to the daisy family (Asteraceae). These lofty, exuberant tree dahlias originate in the cloud forests of Central and South America. Each spring they grow rapidly from underground tubers developing compound leaflets often 36-inches long. By late fall, they have reached 15 feet or more and are ready to bloom. There are 26 species of tree dahlias; they can be single or double, erect or drooping, rose- colored or white, depending on the species. The tree dahlias that thrive in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest collection at the Garden are Dahlia imperialis and Dahlia tenuicaulis, both with lavender flowers and the 'Double White' cultivar.

Dahlias originated in the highlands of Mexico and were nurtured in the fabulous gardens of Montezuma, the Aztec king, whose civilization reached its peak in 1200 A.D. Cortez conquered the Aztecs in 1552 and brought many plants from Mexico including tree dahlias back to Spain for propagation. The Aztecs called tree dahlias "cocoxochitl" or "water pipes," because their 4-inch thick stems were hollow and used to transport water from the mountains to the lowlands. In our Nursery, Curator Don Mahoney propagates tree dahlias by planting 12-inch sections of these "pipes" with nodes, standing upright or lying flat in potting soil. In just nine months a stem can be ready to bloom. They are susceptible to wind, and grow best in forests where they are protected.

The Mesoamerican Cloud Forest garden blooms during our fall months when the majority of other plants in the Garden have gone dormant. Our mild seasons and abundant fog approximate similar conditions found in their high elevation tropical homelands.

Profile
Scientific Name Dahlia spp.
Common Name Tree dahlia
Family Asteraceae
Plant Type Shrub
Environment Prefers shade, moderate water and well drained soil
Bloom Pink/purple to white flowers appear in the fall
Uses Great for areas that you want to have some growth and color within a year from planting. Best when planted with other shrubs and trees for protection from wind
More info The dahlia is the official flower of San Francisco; for a breathtaking display of other species and cultivated dahlias, check out the dahlia display on the east side of the Conservatory of Flowers

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text by Kathy McNeil. Photos by Joanne Taylor. Profile by David Kruse-Pickler.

Plant Sales at San Francisco Botanical Garden
Location

Tree dahlias are located in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest (Beds 14A, 24G, 25A, 25C, 26E).

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Map (Bed Numbers) >>

 
 
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Magnolia dawsoniana

Magnolia dawsoniana

January

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Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

February

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Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'

March

Aristolochia californica

Aristolochia californica

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Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

May

Arbutus menziesii

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June

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

July

Cistus sp.

Cistus sp.

August

Rosmarinus sp.

Rosmarinus sp.

September

Dahlia spp.

Dahlia spp.

October

   
Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Magnolia x veitchii

Magnolia x veitchii

March

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

April

Aesculus californica

Aesculus californica

May

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum

June

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa

July

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

August

Asarum caudatum

Asarum caudatum

September

Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

October

Montanoa spp.

Montanoa spp.

November

Bidens sp.

Bidens sp.

December

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

February

Bomaria spp.

Bomarea spp.

March

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale

April

Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum

May

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

June

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

July

Hydrangea seemannii

Hydrangea seemannii

August

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis

September

Cyathea cooperi

Cyathea cooperi

October

Pinus radiata

Pinus radiata

November

Correa spp.

Correa spp.

December

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica

January

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

February

Senecio glastifolius

Senecio glastifolius

March

Ribes spp.

Ribes spp.

April

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

May

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora

June

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Passiflora parritae

Passiflora parritae

September

Malvaviscus arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus

October

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Monterey Cypress

November

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

December

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis

January

Banksia seminuda

Banksia seminuda

February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

March

Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

April

Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

August

Brugmansia

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September

Cedrus spp.

Cedrus spp.

October

Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

December

Thujopsis dolabrata

Thujopsis dolabrata

January

Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

Rojasianthe superba

March

Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

May

Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea

June

Felicia amelloides

Felicia amelloides

July

Ceroxylon quindiuense

Ceroxylon quindiuense

August

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

September

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

October

Acer morrisonense

Acer morrisonense

November

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

December

Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis

January

Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

February

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

March

Leptospermum Spp.

Leptospermum

April

Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

Lavandula spp.

June

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

July

Fuchsia paniculata

Fuchsia paniculata

August

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

September

Luculia

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October

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Arbutus unedo

November

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December

Restionaceae

Restionaceae

January

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February

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March

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April

Psoralea pinnata

Psoralea pinnata

May

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Fremontodendron californicum

June

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum

July

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

August

Gunnera tinctoria

Gunnera tinctoria

September

Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

October

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia boliviana

November

Erica canaliculata

Erica canaliculata

December

Magnolia campbelli

Magnolia campbelli

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Camellia

Camellia

March

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

April

Acmena smithii

Acmena smithii

May

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

June

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum

September

Epilobium canum sp.

Epilobium canum sp.

October

Grevillea spp.

Grevillea spp.

November

Drimys winteri

Drimys winteri

December

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