Before Columbus came....
Many of our favorite flowers are native to North, South, and
Central America. Some were domesticated by American Indians long
before the Europeans arrived. The tuberose, for example, has been
grown in Mexico for so long that its origins are lost. Some, like
the amsonia swamp sunflower, have only recently begun to be
appreciated. Following are some flowers for a garden of the
- Canna Canna spp. - Various species of cannas are native from
tropical America as far north as South Carolina. The flowers are
a favorite of hummingbirds.
- Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa - Like corn, the tuberose was
domesticated by pre-Columbian Indians of Mexico, its origin lost
in antiquity. It is one of the most fragrant flowers you can grow
and a wonderful cut flower.
- Marigold Tagetes spp. - One of the most important
of the New World to horticulture, marigolds are native from
Arizona and New Mexico to Argentina.
- Aztec Lily Sprekelia formosissima - Also called "St. James
lily" or "Jacobean lily," it is native to Mexico.
- Dahlia Dahlia spp. - Domesticated by pre-Columbian Indians,
is native to Mexico, Central America, and Columbia.
- Yucca Yucca spp. - Yuccas are found in many parts of North
America. Most familiar are Yucca filamentosa Adam's needle and
Yucca aloifolia Spanish bayonet. Yuccas were used by American
Indians for food, fiber, and soap. Fibers came from the leaves,
and the tuberous root was used to clean fabrics and in
- Mollypop Passiflora spp. - Also known as "passionflower"
because its flowers reminded Spanish missionaries of the passion
of Christ. Grown by American Indians and by modern gardeners for
its fruit and beautiful flowers.
- Sunflower Helianthus spp. - American Indians grew sunflowers
for the seeds. The crunchy tubers of the Jerusalem artichoke a
native relative of the sunflower were also one of their staple
foods. Sunflowers, such as swamp sunflower and Maximillian
sunflower, are beautiful natives for the garden.
Other flowers you may want to consider are Tiger Flower Tigridia
spp., zinnia Zinnia spp., liatris Liatris spp., wild
Baptisia spp., butterflyweed Asclepias spp., goldenrod
Solidago spp., and purple coneflower Echinacea spp..