Plant of the Month: Tulip

No other flower symbolizes spring and the Easter holiday more than the tulip, with its bright spring colors and early-rising blooms.  During the Ottoman Empire, the tulip was a symbol for abundance and indulgence, inspiring many to paint images of its beauty and to write about it in poetry and stories dating back to the thirteenth century. Since, many other poets and writers have written about the tulip, including the French romance author, Alexandre Dumas. Tulips are also celebrated in the spring in tulip festivals all across the world, with the largest festival in the Netherlands.

There are over 109 species of this beloved flower, growing natively as far as Southern Europe, North Africa, Anatolia, and Iran to the Northwest of China. The tulip’s entrance into Western Europe is not well documented, but it is thought that a German ambassador brought the tulip back from Turkey during the Ottoman Empire. Carolus Clusius, a Flemish botanist, planted tulips at the Imperial Botanical Gardens of Vienna and the Hortus Botanicus at Leiden University in the late 16th century. After establishing tulips in these high profile gardens, the tulip’s popularity soared, leading to a period dubbed ‘Tulip Mania’.

Between 1634 and 1637, the popularity of tulips rose rapidly. During this time, Holland established themselves in the tulip industry and the price of tulips became so inflamed that they were accepted as currency. Many tulips were also stolen from Clusius’ personal garden.

In the mid 1800’s a wealthy man living in Massachusetts, had tulips imported along with many other trees and plants for use in his personal garden. Today, tulips can be seen showing their bright colors in spring gardens across the United States and depicted on baskets, cards and any image related to the Easter holiday.

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