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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 Americas:

  • 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 contributions 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, it 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 purification rites.

  • 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 indigo Baptisia spp., butterflyweed Asclepias spp., goldenrod Solidago spp., and purple coneflower Echinacea spp..


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