11 Feb Seven Fascinating Facts on the Tulip
Posted at 13:01h in History
If Tulips could speak, they would speak of the many interesting and twisted tales about their history…. Here are seven fascinating facts about the flower that caused the ‘Tulipomania‘ fever many nations caught.
- Tulips have become practically synonymous with the Dutch. However, the flowers were never native to the Netherlands, nor were the Dutch responsible in breeding these beauties. In fact, the Dutch obsession with Tulips belongs to a relatively recent period of its history.
- The remote mountains and barren steppes of Central Asia are the true birthplace of Tulips. Of the one hundred and twenty species of the wild Tulip, three quarters are native to the region. It is believed that from Central Asia, the crossroads of the East and West, the plant spread to all parts of the world, presumably by those trading with, travelling through or invading the region.
- The Tulip, had in fact, acquired its name by accident. Ambassador of Emperor Ferdinand I, Ogier Ghiselion de Busbecq, came across the flower in Constantinople, and was so taken back by its beauty, he immediately asked his interpreter for its name. The interpreter had likened it to a turban, and as turban, in Turkish, is tulbend, Busbecq mistakenly assumed that it was the flower’s name and rendered it in Latin as tulipa.
- The Turks, the first to catch the Tulip fever, held the flower to be divine and called it lale, whose letters form “Allah” in Turkish. They were highly cultivated blooms and reigned supreme, as a symbol of wealth and prestige. They became the official flower of the sixteenth century Ottoman ruler, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and were developed for his pleasure and his entourage. The period later even went on to be known as ‘Age of the Tulips’. During the reign of Sultan Ahmed III in the early eighteenth century, it was forbidden to buy or sell the flowers outside the capital – a crime punishable by exile. It was often commented that, during the time, the Tulip was more valued than a human life.
- When Ogier Ghiselion de Busbecq introduced the flower to Europe, soon enough, another craze began. Carolus Clusius, renowned botanist of the Royal Medicinal Gardens in Prague received the flowers and in 1593 left to the Netherlands, to become the curator of the Leiden botanical gardens. These gardens had been planted mainly for the supply of medicinal herbs, however Clusius brought his huge collection of Tulips with him, which at the time were rumoured to be one of the most impressive in Western Europe. However, Clusius was a selfish gardener and kept his beloved Tulips to himself. He refused to sell or share them with anyone, despite several generous offers. Some Tulip devotees became so desperate; they eventually resorted to sneaking into the gardens and stealing some. It is said that this act disgusted Clusius so much; he gave up his dealings with Tulips and never grew them again.
- During the Dutch Golden Age, tulip bulbs became extremely precious rarities. As the trade in the bulbs began, prices of the plant began to skyrocket. Hybrids became more and more glamorous, and the limited supply of certain bulbs became highly prized by the wealthy populations, who were willing to pay anything. Around 1624, a Dutch man, who had owned only a dozen specimens of a particular hybrid of the Tulip, was offered 3,000 guilders for one bulb. While there is no accurate way to render that in today’s amount, the sum was roughly equal to the annual income of a wealthy merchant.
- The increasing mania also contributed to several peculiar happenings. Apparently, one Dutch sailor mistook the valuable bulb for an onion and grabbed to eat it. He was jailed for eating the bulb.