The Tulip Diaspora

The Tulip Diaspora

The story of the tulip is a tale of beauty and commerce, dreams and obsessions.

The tulip began its life as a wildflower in the Pamir and Tien Shan ranges of Central Asia and the mountains of the Caucasus, which range from southern Russia to the high plains and peaks of Turkey and Iran. Species tulips first raised their pretty blooms only a few inches above the ground in a limited palette of brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges, spreading their seeds on the wind, their bulbs by slow division. 

Few people traveled to these regions, but from time to time the bright little flower so enchanted passing traders and soldiers that they carried its seeds and bulbs to the courts of Persia and Turkey. In time, with the ever-expanding trade among nations, the tulip moved west, enchanting scholars and men and women of fashion in Germany, Austria, France, and England before consuming the present day Netherlands. There, the obsession with tulips reached its zenith in the early 17th Century in the craze now known as Tulipmania.

In modern times, the Netherlands is the place most associated with the tulip, which has become a national symbol, as characteristic as the windmill or a pair of wooden shoes, but it has enchanted and colonized many other nations in its journey.