Today's #TulipFact: Tulips are capable of reproduction in two ways. The first method, commonly known amongst flowers, is via pollination and seeds. When first flowering, pollen is produced that will attach itself to bees and other insects that fly inside the petals. This pollen is carried to other flowers, where it will germinate and enable the creation of new seeds that contain the genetic information of both parent flowers.
This can be great in the wild, as it builds genetic diversity and enables the seeds to spread far and wide. It is also great for breeding new Tulips! However, it is not ideal should growers want to make a lot of the same thing, or be able to offer the same breeds year after year.
Fortunately, Tulips have a 'back-up' method of reproducing - something that works even if no other flowers are around for pollination. This method involves the primary bulb generating smaller 'offshoot' bulbs on the side. These offshoots require a lot of energy, to the point where a bulb will often not flower while growing them. However, these offshoots have a few major benefits versus seeds, particularly when it comes to cultivation and widescale production:
- They are genetically identical to the parent plant, allowing for exact replicas to be generated
- They are more robust than seeds, with a much higher likelihood of successful growth, and a much shorter time to first flowering (3 years versus 7)
The ability to reproduce via bulb offshoots has been one of the key components to the extreme diversity available in Tulips today, and just one more reason to love this incredible flower!
Photograph is of a pocket of 'Tulipa Praestans', courtesy of Eric Breed and 'Tulips in the Wild' (see the website here).