The tulip (Tulipa) forms a plant genus of the lily family (Liliaceae) with about 150 species. Tulips are perennial, herbaceous plants and reach a growth height of 10 to 70 centimeters, depending on the species.
The home of tulips extends from North Africa, Europe to Central and Central Asia, mainly the southeastern Mediterranean region. The Netherlands is the world's largest producer of tulips. Our familiar garden tulips were bred from the wild tulips. In the past 400 years, several thousand new cultivars have been produced. Tulips like humidity and hot dry places in summer. However, they also grow in winter when it is cold. Towards the end of the 16th century Holland became a center of tulip breeding. A large number of varieties emerged, including those with double flowers and with colorful mottled flowers. This was caused by a viral disease.
The history of the tulip Originally, the tulip comes from Persia and Turkey. There the Lali, as the tulip is called in Turkey, grows wild. Constantinople, now Istanbul, was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world in the 16th century. It was a center of trade, traffic, culture and political intrigue, and the city's magnificent gardens also earned much admiration.
The tulip conquers Persia The "tulip century" reached its peak at the beginning of the 18th century. Every spring at the full moon, Sultan Ahmed III held a magnificent tulip festival in the palace gardens. Hundreds of vases with the most beautiful tulip flowers were placed. The Sultan apparently even had tulips imported from Holland for this purpose. They were crystal bulbs with colorful liquids. The whole thing was illuminated fairy-tale-like by crystal lamps. From the branches of the trees hung cages with canaries and nightingales singing around. The guests were dressed in colors matching the flowers. These extraordinarily precious feasts finally became the Sultan's undoing. He was assassinated by discontented conspirators who felt that the treasure chest was becoming too empty.
The trade and culture of tulips was strictly protected in Persia. It was forbidden to trade tulips outside the court. Those who disobeyed this were severely punished. All stocks and new varieties were precisely described. In the oldest known tulip book, names of tulips were listed as early as 1588.
The tulip conquers Europe In Great Britain, the tulip arrived in 1578, and, as is known from sources, from Vienna. About 45 years later, the well-known author of herbal books, John Parkinson, already describes more than 150 varieties. He divides them into three groups: Early, Medium Early and Late. A classification that is still valid today. Great Britain still plays a major role in breeding and administering new varieties. In France, the tulip was the court flower during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The ladies of the court liked to decorate their low-cut décolletés with a number of tulips. A sign of pure wealth. Around Berlin, bulb cultivation flourished in the 19th century. But the ever-expanding city buried the gardens under its buildings.
The tulip conquers Holland Tulip fever seized the Flemish diplomat, Ogier de Busbecq, envoy of the Austrian Habsburgs at the court of Suleyman the Great. He wrote with great enthusiasm about the beauty of tulips and sent some bulbs to his Dutch friend, the scholar Carolus Clusius. Clusius had just started a new job as a botanist at the University of Leiden. He was very fond of his rare bulbs. Tradition leads us to believe that he charged exorbitant prices for the bulbs, so that no one wanted to buy them. Some gentlemen with a trading spirit could not get over this. One dark night they sneaked into the garden and took the onions. Clusius was so bitter about this that he thought growing tulips was a farce. The stolen bulbs were to become the basic material for growing tulips in Holland.
Tulpomania Tulips became popular in large parts of Europe in a short time. But it was mainly the rich people who could afford these flowers. A garden consisted of a collection of precious things and the tulip played an expensive leading role in it. The tulip became more and more expensive and in 1634 it came to an absolute climax. The "tulip madness" had struck. During the tulip mania, the trade in flower bulbs was a real speculative business. It was bought and sold without money or goods changing hands. Everything was done on paper. In addition, one was never sure what exactly came out of the onions. The merchants could only trust that it would be a beautiful tulip. When a merchant sold a bulb, the big question was whether he had ever seen it. There was also the question of whether the buyer could indeed come up with the agreed amount of money or goods. More and more middlemen wanted to play the game and, above all, earn money from it. The demand for certain grades became greater and greater and, as a result, the price rose. At the top of the ranking was the Semper Augustus. It brought 5 thousand florins, an amount that could buy a canal house in Amsterdam. Instead of money, goods were also often traded. For a single bulb of the tulip Viceroi (worth half as much as the Semper Augustus) the following price was agreed upon: 2 cartloads of wheat, 4 cartloads of rye, 4 fat oxen, 8 fat piglets, 12 fat sheep, 2 barrels of wine, 4 barrels of beer, 1000 pounds of cheese, 1 bed, 1 silver chalice, and clothing.
The trade in tulip bulbs mostly took place in the back rooms of inns, in taverns, and in eating places. It was illegal, but everyone knew about it. Even children were used for spying. After three years came the end of tulpomania. Prices began to drop sharply and many traders went bankrupt, something for which they could receive heavy prison sentences. Fortune faded like snow in the sun and many became unemployed. In April 1637 the authorities intervened and declared any speculative agreement invalid and established a maximum price of 50 florins for a tulip bulb.