Flower bulb of the week: the tulip

This week’s flower bulb of the week is the tulip. This flower looks like a turban It’s the queen of all the spring flowers. The name tulip comes from the word Tulipa. That is Latin, and it means the flower that looks like a turban. Does that seem strange…? Well, not really, not when you […]

This week’s flower bulb of the week is the tulip.

This flower looks like a turban

It’s the queen of all the spring flowers. The name tulip comes from the word Tulipa. That is Latin, and it means the flower that looks like a turban. Does that seem strange…? Well, not really, not when you know that tulips were cultivated during the Middle Ages and traded in Turkey. And in Turkey in those days, all men wore a turban. That’s why!

Precious tulips

The funny thing is, all our tulips are descended from those Turkish tulips. In around 1550, Turkey was a powerful country. It was ruled by a rich sultan, called Sultan Süleyman. His palace gardens were full of the most beautiful tulips. After all, he was fantastically rich, and rich people have a lot of money to spend on beautiful luxuries like flower gardens. There were tulips in his garden too, because tulips were very precious flowers. It’s hard to imagine now, but tulips were so precious that a single tulip was worth more than a human life!

An expensive gift

The Sultan didn’t give his tulips away to just anybody. He would only give tulip bulbs to his most important and famous guests. One famous guest was Mr. De Busbecq, a nobleman from Flanders who was sent to Turkey as ambassador. De Busbecq gave the tulip bulbs to a friend of his, called Carolus Clusius. Carolus Clusius was the head gardener in the herb garden of the Emperor of Austria. There, in the herb garden, the tulips were given pride of place.

Trade in bulbs

Later, Carolus Clusius moved to the Netherlands. He became a professor at the University of Leiden and he ran the university herb garden. And of course, he took his tulips with him. He did all kinds of experiments with them. But even though they were beautiful and rare, he never thought about selling them. But one night, something terrible happened. Some of his most beautiful tulip bulbs were stolen from the herb garden. And with those stolen Turkish bulbs, flower bulb trading began in the Netherlands.

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