Tulip History & Legends:
Origins: Common belief is that they are native to Holland, however this is incorrect. Tulips actually originated from the Middle East cultivation was started over a thousand years ago and it grew wild in Persia.
History: In 1593, a botanist by the name
of Carolus Clusius planted the first tulip bulb in Holland, with the purpose of
using it to study for medicinal purposes. Later in Europe, tulips were
considered the symbol of the Ottoman Empire. The Ambassador of the Holy Roman
Empire sent tulip seeds and bulbs to Clusius in Vienna, who planted them all in
a heap and when they matured he gave a 100 bulbs to his grocer who, not knowing
what to do with them, fried them and ate them with oil and vinegar.
It wasn't until the beginning of the seventeenth century that France began to become interested in tulips. In 1610, it became a major fad for French women to wear corsages of tulips. The tulip fashion began to evolve into a frenzy that greatly influenced fashion and many fabrics were decorated with tulip designs.
Tulipomania: During that era, the
phenomenon of tulipomania commenced. Tulip values continuously rose throughout
Europe to France and to the Low countries. Within a few years the Dutch were
seized by tulipomania. A small bed of tulips was valued at 15,000-20,000 francs.
Some rare tulip bulbs were fetching prices equivalent to over $100,000 in
But it was not so much a enthusiasm for the flower, the bulbs became an actual type of currency. Their value changed from day to day and were quoted like stocks and shares. During the period 1634-1637, people abandoned jobs, businesses, wives, homes and lovers to become tulip growers. Everyone frequented the market and speculated in tulip shares. It is believed the word bourse [stock exchange] derives from that period, because those who speculated in the tulip market held their meetings at the house of the noble family Van Bourse.
Soon it was enough to simply exhibit a piece of paper attesting to the ownership of a bulb to sell it at a higher price, without producing the actual bulb. The number of bulbs on the market was about ten million. Finally, the tulip did not appear to quite so rare as to justify such high prices, and on April 27, 1637, a decree was issued declaring that the purchase and sale of tulip bulbs was to be conducted in the same way as any other business. Speculation ceased and dealers went bankrupt, and many people lost their savings because of the trade. Although prices fell to reasonable proportions, tulips never did become rally cheap and even today they are relatively expensive.
According to Persian legend a Persian youth named Farhad, fell in love with a maiden named Shirin. One day, word reached him that she had been killed. Gripped by unbearable grief, he mounted his favorite horse and galloped over a cliff to his death. From each drop of blood that trickled onto the ground, from his wounds a scarlet tulip sprang, a symbol of his perfect love. Due to this, the red tulip became a symbol of passionate love in ancient Persia.