The Skinny on Tulips
A widely unknown fact about tulips is that the flower is actually native to Turkey and Central Asia. The botanical name, Tulipa, is derived from the Turkish word tulbend or “turban,” which the flower resembles. These tulips were well suited to the harsh, dry, cold mountain conditions. It is thought that nomadic tribes moving West through the region first brought tulips to the Turkish Ottoman Empire and it wasn’t until the 16th century that the bulbs made their way to Holland.
Tulips in Turkey
Prized for their beauty and perfection, Turks thought of tulips as the flowers of God. The flower’s moniker also was given to the period of peace and enjoyment between 1703-1730 (the “Tulip Era”). During Sultan Ahmed III’s reign at this time, tulips became culturally integrated in daily life as Turks incorporated the flower in their folklore, embroidery, carpets, tiles, and gardens. Today, tulips are prominent in the branding of the country. Turkish Airlines incorporates the flower on its fusilage and the official tourism board uses it in its logo.
Tulips in Holland
In the 17th century, the overgrown interest and high popularity of tulips crazed the population of Holland. Bulbs were sold by weight, usually while they were still in the ground. This speculation and demand caused bulb prices to skyrocket which then prompted the Dutch government to unsuccessfully outlaw the commerce. Ultimately, over-supply led to lower prices and dealers went bankrupt causing the tulip market to crash. Holland’s love affair with the flower, however, led to better cultivation after the crash, and to this day, the country remains the largest international tulip exporter.