Tulips are one of my favorite flowers. I love their elegant lines, rich waxy colors and intriguing history. I also find great delight in the spring when winter’s snow and chill finally gives way to these early blooming beauties. Read below for an interesting overview of the beguiling tulip, an ephemeral flower that brought rich men to their knees.
1. Tulips are native to Central Asia. Although they are the quintessential Dutch flower, they actually originated in Central Asia, including Turkey, where the tulip is the national flower.
2. The English word tulip is derived from a Persian word, delband, which means turban. The flower was seen as turban-shaped, hence the name.
3. Tulips have been cultivated for over 500 years, starting at the point of origin, as noted above.
4. The tulip was likely introduced to Europeans in 1554 via a gift from the Ottoman Empire. A European Ambassador was gifted seeds and bulbs, which he then passed to Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and his royal botanist, Carolus Clusius.
5. Tulips once crashed an economy. In the 1600s when tulips where introduced to Holland, the waxy flower became so wildly popular that an economy of trading known as tulipmania burgeoned nearly overnight. At the peak of tulip mania, some single bulbs sold for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. Social status began to be measured by exotic tulips! Tulip mania was short-lived however, and when it crashed so did the fortunes of many Dutch. Many economists consider tulip mania to be the first speculative bubble.
6.The tulip was once the most expensive flower in the world. At one point during the height of Europe’s tulip mania, a single Viceroy tulip bulb was purchased for two lasts of wheat, four lasts of rye, four fat oxen, eight fat swine, 12 fat sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four casks of beer, two tons of butter, a complete bed, a suit of clothes and a silver drinking cup! In the winter of 1636-37, a valuable tulip bulb could change hands ten times in a day.
7. By 1636, the tulip bulb was the fourth leading export for Holland — after gin, herring and cheese.
8. There are over 3000 varieties of tulips.Tulips are divided into 15 groups with wonderful names such as Parrot, Rembrandt and Triumph.
9. Some tulips smell as they are named. Apricot Beauty for example smells like apricots. Many of the peach and apricot-colored tulips have a fruity fragrance. The Cod Liver Fancy Tulip smells like cod liver (just kidding — there is no such thing!)
10. Tulips did not arrive to the United States until the 1800s. The first referenced account of tulips growing in the U.S. pinpoints Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts. A wealthy land owner, Richard Sullivan Fay, Esq., settled on 500 acres straddling the two towns and here he planted trees and flowers from all over the world.
11.Tulips are edible. Try pesticide-free tulip petals on your salad or deserts. They add striking beauty, color, and fragrance to many dishes when creatively incorporated. In the Dutch famine of 1944 (due to German-occupation during WWII), people often resorted to eating sugar beets and tulips.
12. Tulip Festivals are held across the world every spring. In Utah, Thanksgiving Point hosts the only Intermountain West tulip festival with over 250,000 brightly-colored tulips on display over their 55-acre garden. The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa claims to be the biggest tulip extravaganza in the world with over 300,000 tulips on display.