With the advent of February I begin to think of having fresh flowers in the house other than poinsettias. I begin to inspect the cut flower section of the grocery store and one day there they are, tulips. How special to have a vase full of tulips as the snow covers the ground.
As I admired the tulips on my dining room table I wondered about their origin. I began to research and found a lot more than I expected and can reveal in this short blog. My intention is to entice you to do more research on your own using the websites at the end of this blog.
Tulips began as wildflowers growing across Central Asia. In the year 1,000 AD the tulip was cultivate by the Turks and introduced to Western Europe and the Netherlands. Resembling a Turkish turban the Turks named the flower tulip the Turkish word for turban.
The tulip became a very popular decorative plant. They looked very different from the flowers of the day. Their intense color and petals were thought to be lovely. Hybrids were created and mutations evolved. One mutation caused by a virus carried by a louse living in peaches and potatoes, the mosaic virus or breaking virus caused the tulip to develop a frilly edge and multi-colored petals. They were highly sought after tulips due to their rarity.
The tulip soon became a status symbol. As time passed the price of bulbs became excessive. The peak of this excess came between 1636 and 1637 also called the Dutch Golden Age. This span of time became known as “Tulipmania”. In 1636 the tulip bulb was the fourth leading export from the Netherlands. Tulips were sold by weight while they were still in the ground. Selling un-sprouted tulip bulbs was called “wind trade”. At this time one could pay ten times the annual income of a craftsmen or as much as the cost of a house for a bulb. Tulip bulbs were also used as currency in the market place.
As bulbs became more plentiful the cost went down and it went down fast. This became known as the “Tulip Crash”. Many people went into the tulip trade some making a fortune and others losing a fortune.
The immigrating Dutch brought tulips to America. Tulip Festivals are still held in Holland, Michigan and New York City, New York.
The purpose of a tulip bulb is to protect the blossom and leaves during the cooler seasons. Leaves called scales surround the tender plant. The scales hold nutrient to feed the young plant. At the base of the bulb bulblets or offsets are formed. In the fall tulip bulbs are harvested. The offsets are removed and planted so that they might mature into bulbs. The mature bulbs are stored in a cool dry place until it is time to be replanted.
Today our tulip bulbs are healthy and genetically stable hybrids. The tulip is still a highly regarded flower through out the world. The Netherlands is the leading producer of tulip bulbs.
If you wish to travel to the Netherlands Keukenhof Park is the place to go. Keukenhof Park is a most famous and the largest tulip park in Europe. The seven million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips create a fabulous color palate between April and May.
Who would have thought the tulip, this simple flower played such a vivid role in history. As you treat yourself to a tulip bouquet or watch the spring tulips appear think of the tulip as an influential and mighty flower.
Websites used and for further reading: