Mar 02

The History of Tulips

The tulip is one of the most colorful and popular flowers, especially for gardeners.  But where did this amazing flower come from?  The history of the tulip is very interesting.  It originated in Turkey and Persia.  The people of the region loved the brightly colored tulip, and the flower was used for decoration and in art as early as 1000 AD.  However, while today we often associate the tulip with the Netherlands, the flower wasn’t introduced to Western Europe until the 17th century!

During that time, biologist Carolus Clusius of Vienna was studying medicinal plants.  He had been hired to do so by the University of Leiden.  Hearing of his study, Ogier de Busbecq, Ambassador to Constantinople, send Clusius some bulbs of the amazingly beautiful flower grown in the region.  Leiden found the flowers to be incredibly beautiful and asked what they were called.  Due to a bit of confusion and mistranslation, he was told they were called the tulip, which is the Turkish word for turban.

Once Leiden planted a few of the flowers in his gardens, Tulip Mania took off in Holland.  Suddenly, everyone had to have these flowers.  In fact, prices got so high at one point that tulips cost more than some houses!  Tulips were very rare at this point, but once supply caught up with demand, the tulip market crashed and some where left bankrupt. 

During the 20th century, botanists discovered that the characteristic petals and colors that give the tulip its distinctive look were actually caused by a virus!  A healthy tulip is smoother and only one color.  The tulips were infected by viruses from potatoes and peaches.  Today, botanists have created hybrid tulips that have that amazing look without the disease.

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