They became food for WWII soldiers. They started an economic frenzy. Today, they are a common sign of spring. Tulips are not only a garden favorite but they have a rich past that covers many continents and many decades.
The tulip originated in central Asia and eventually made its way to Turkey. The word tulip is derived from the Persian word, delband, which means turban, reflecting the shape of the flower. The tulip continues to be the national flower of Turkey.
During the 16th century the tulip was introduced into Holland. Flemish botanist, Carolus Clusius became a tulip enthusiast and is considered to have been Europe’s first cultivator of the flower in 1594. As Clusius created many new colors and varieties, tulips became a most valued possession.
This tremendous desire for tulips led to a period from 1634 to 1637 known as “Tulip Mania”. The new flower started an economic frenzy and one of the world’s first “speculative bubbles”. The value of tulips shot up nearly overnight, they became the most expensive flower in the world, so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency.
At the peak of “tulip mania” some bulbs were selling for 10 times more than the annual income of a skilled worker. A valuable bulb could change hands up to ten times a day.
Eventually the whole economy crashed and the tulip bubble burst leaving many Dutch citizens bankrupt.
After 500 years Holland is still the world’s main grower of commercially sold tulips, producing as many as three billion bulbs annually as “tulip mania” continues.
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