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The story behind the tulip (1)

Its long spring season and cool nights make Holland the perfect country for tulip growing. Tulips signal the arrival of spring. It starts with crocus season in March, which is followed by daffodils and hyacinths. Finally the tulips show their vivid paint-box colors and transforms big parts of Holland into a vast sea of tulips. There are over 150 species of tulips with over 3,000 different varieties.

Today, Holland is the largest producer and exporter of tulips, growing and exporting nearly 4 billion bulbs each year, but the tulip is not native to Holland. The history of the Tulip is filled with interesting tales including the Dutch ‘Tulipomania’, which is the most famous and held up as the first example of an economic bubble.

Commonly the tulip is thought to have originated in Turkey. Actually the plant probably first appeared farther east in the steppes of western and central Asia, primarily in Armenia, Persia and the Caucasus. As early as 1,000 A.D., the Turks were cultivating tulips. During the time of the Ottoman Empire, the Tulip reigned supreme as a symbol of wealth and prestige and the period later became known as ‘Age of the Tulips’. The Turks had strict laws governing the cultivation and sale of Tulips.

During the second half of the 16th century, news of the extraordinary flower reached Europe and bulbs and seeds were then sent to Carolus Clusius, scientific horticulturists in Prague. The event marked the arrival of the Tulip to Europe. He had been experimenting and cross breeding tulips for many years for medical applications before he moved to Holland. In 1593, he planted a handful of tulip bulbs in a small garden at the University of Leiden. The act is considered by the Dutch as the birth of their famous flower business. (To be continued)