The naming of the plant itself has long been a subject of some confusion. Many sources state that the name “Dahlia” was bestowed by the pioneering Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus to honor his late student, Anders Dahl, author of Observationes Botanicae. However, Linnaeus died in 1778, more than eleven years before the plant was introduced into Europe in 1789, so while it is generally agreed that the plant was named in honor of Dahl, who had died two years before,36 Linnaeus could not have been the one who did so. It was probably Abbe Antonio Jose Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid, who should be credited with the attempt to scientifically define the genus, since he not only received the first specimens from Mexico in 1789, but named the first three species that flowered from the cuttings.21
Regardless of who bestowed it, the name was not so easily established. In 1805, German botanist Carl Ludwig Willdenow, asserting that the genus Dahlia Thunb. (published a year after Cavanilles’s genus and now considered a synonym of Trichocladus) was more widely accepted, changed the plants’ genus from Dahlia to Georgina; after the German-born naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi, a professor at the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, Russia.37 He also reclassified and renamed the first three species grown, and identified, by Cavanilles. It was not until 1810, in a published article, that he officially adopted the Cavanilles’ original designation of Dahlia.38 However, the name Georgina still persisted in Germany for the next few decades.
“Dahl” is a homophone of the Swedish word “dal”, or “valley”; although it is not a true translation, the plant is sometimes referred to as the “valley flower”. Read more