Flowers in Mexico

Nature Celebrates Mexican Independence  

By Tara A. Spears        flowers 1 

While September is characterized by back to school excitement and celebrating the Mexican Independence holiday, nature has her own fireworks to contribute.  The indigenous wildflowers throughout the country are at their dazzling best-bright pops of color throughout the desert, mountain, and roadside vegetation.  The countryside is brilliant with lush blossoms and home gardens are ablaze with the bounty of the rainy season and the beginning of cooler nights. The Mexican people come by their love of blooming things as an inheritance from their ancestors.

Cultural Importance of Flowers:

Flowers have played an important role in the myths of the Mexican people since pre-Columbian times. Each human soul is born as a Sac nic (white flower) blossoming on the great Wakah-kan (world tree) which stretches from the lowest level of the underworld to the highest level of the heavens. Presently, some native people use the word kotzij (flower) for the human placenta. To the Maya, flowers were holy objects carrying great power, therefore, flowers had important parts in all religious rites. Today, the Tzotzil Maya use the word nichim (flower) to mean sacredness.

 Even the ancient gods loved flowers and demanded them as offerings along with the blood and suffering of human sacrifice. A few, like Quetzalcoatl and some of the gentler goddesses, refused the gore and accepted only flowers and fruits on their altars. Many of the gods were thought to have been born from flowers and are often shown emerging from their blossoms in paintings and statues. The Mayan rain god, Chac, can usually be recognized by his headband of flowers while his Aztec counterpart, Tlaloc, delighted in receiving the first blossoms of spring. When the Xochimilca tribe were conquered by the Aztecs, their agricultural region was taken over to support the needs of a rapidly expanding empire centered further north at Tenochtitlan.

flowers aztecThe Aztecs were avid gardeners who valued the native wildflowers, especially the dahlias.  These cheerful blossoms soon found their way into the gardens of the Emperor and homes of the wealthy that were tended by slaves. Flowers, with their short life and fleeting beauty,  would become vital to Aztec celebrations of the many gods and death. They would deem Xochipili the god of flowers.  There is no doubt that the dahlias collected in Tenochtitlan from the far corners of Mexico and Guatemala began to naturally cross pollinate in these gardens, producing ever more varieties. As the Aztecs cultivated the flowers, they began using parts of the dahlia plant for food and medicine.  During the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico.  In addition to conquering the Aztecs, they brought with them botanists, whose job it was to bring back plants from the New World for Spain. In 1570 Spanish king Philip sent Francisco Hernadez to study the native flora.  

DaliaMexican National Flower: The dahlia, which boasts over 36 species, has been the national flower of Mexico since 1963. Seeds were imported to Madrid in 1789, where the flower was named “dahlia coccinea” by the head of the Madrid Botanical Garden. The dahlia is known for its stunning and brightly colored petals, which come in red, orange, yellow, pink and white. The blossoms grow from 2 to 10 inches in diameter. It is the vivid array of colors and wide variety of flower types that set the dahlia apart from other native flowers. Several types of the wild form of dahlia grow in the mountain regions at one to two thousand feet altitude in deep ravines that are partially shady. These natural locations are hot during the day but get cold at night, which explains why so many of the modern varieties bloom best near the cooler days of autumn.

The dahlia has one of the longest bloom seasons of any garden flower, which means you will be enjoying gorgeous blooms long after your friends and neighbor’s flower gardens have ended for the season. Dahlias also last a very long time as cut flowers, making them a great choice for arrangements and bouquets. Another perk of these easy to grow flowers is that butterflies feed on certain types of dahlia, making them a wonderful home garden addition. Some of the September roadside wildflowers in Riviera Nayarit:

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