恋恋郁金香 Finding Tulip

恋恋郁金香 Finding Tulip

I finally arrive in the tulip capital of the Netherlands, Leiden, a 15th century textile city where 1)Rembrandt was born and learned how to paint. It’s where Clusius planted the first tulips in Western Europe and it’s where Holland’s first university was founded, a reward granted by William of Orange for the city’s bravery in battle against his Spanish Catholic oppressors. But I’m here to learn something about tulips, so I make my way to the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden University. Founded in 1590, it’s the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands and it’s where the Dutch national flower—the tulip—was first cultivated.

Tulip means “2)turban” and that gives us a clue that the flower didn’t originate in Holland but in the 3)steppes of Central Asia where it still grows as a wild flower. The Persians named it after the 4)Sikh headwear that it resembled. The Turks named it “tülbent”, and the French and Latin intervention corrupted the name to what we affectionately call it as: the tulip.


The Turks have been cultivating tulips since the 10th century, although it wasn’t until 5)Suleiman the Magnificent ruled a vast 6)Ottoman Empire 600 years later that the flower was given importance, for Suleiman reigned during a golden age of Ottoman power and grandeur, a period in time called the Tulip Age.

Carolus Clusius was the first director for this garden in the late 1500s. He was credited for cultivating the tulip in Western Europe when he got bulbs from his friend who was an ambassador for the Ottoman Empire. And thanks to the Dutch climate and its chalky sandy soil, the tulip flourished and thus an industry was born.

The tulip stock market crashed in 1637 because everyone, both rich and poor, was growing tulips and, of course, they lost their unique value. Dealers went bankrupt and the government was forced to send soldiers to control the supply.

But it’s a love affair that has never gone away for Holland remains the world’s biggest flower exporter, a thriving business which takes place in the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, where $800 million worth of plants are traded each year. The flower auction itself is like a Dutch version of Wall Street, albeit contested with great 7)propriety by local growers and wholesalers bidding for buckets as they are 8)trolleyed into view and shown off. Only 12% of flowers will be sold to Dutch flower shops. The rest are destined for export.


郁金香狂热 (Tulip mania)