Monday, June 14, 2010

Mexican Tree Dahlia

Here's another ornamental plant that has a secret life as an edible plant - the Mexican Tree Dahlia. When Melbourne's weather goes cold and grey, usually sometime in May each year, buds at the end of 3-4 metre tall bamboo-like canes open, revealing large pink, daisy flowers. The flowers float or dangle off the stalks and look beautiful against a soft, grey sky. The strange thing is that the Tree Dahlia's tubers are edible and apparently quite a well-known crop in Central America. The tubers are used like Jerusalem Artichokes, to which  they are related. Both Tree Dahlia and Jerusalem Artichoke tubers are rich in inulin, the fructose sugar not digestible by humans, which has made Jerusalem Artichokes a fashionable 'nutriceutical' diet food. As far as I know, Tree Dahlia has no cultivars; it's certainly very easy to grow. Just cut one of the canes off at the ground during winter, cut it into segments of about 30cm and plonk these straight into the ground. I grew Tree Dahlias years ago and from memory one cutting produced three canes and lots of flowers in one growing season. I have access to several big clumps, so I am going to give the tubers a go in a couple of weeks. If you're very keen to try obscure vegetables, all dahlia tubers are edible, even the most gaudy, over-the-top cultivars and varieties.

(Since writing this post I have changed my mind on edibility/palability of dahlias drastically - see


  1. I have yet to find a dhalia tuber worth eating, I havn't tried tree dahlia tubers.
    Do you have any seed of the ones you are going to try?
    David Hill

  2. Hi David, Tree Dahlias produce lots of seeds but plonking the divided canes straight into the ground is the easiest way to do it. So I haven't got any seed unfortunately. A friend told me he saw Tree Dahlias growing in the cool highlands of Java recently as a food crop, but I'm yet to try them myself.

  3. Hallo!

    My Tree Dahlia seems to be dying from the bottom up! The trunks are still green, but the leaves are dark brown and dead! Is it it too much water, too little water? Can it still be saved?

  4. Interesting variety of dahlias, eh? I just recently got beautiful dahlia tubers of different varieties from Lynch Creek Farm. I'm planning to plant them next week in my own garden.

  5. I have been growing tree dahlias for a long time. Very excited by the idea of edibility.
    They overwinter in the ground in my area, and are very hardy, except for cold, and wind.