Today there are over 100 species of growing tulips and many hundreds of hybrids, primarily due to
the extensive breeding programs and tulip care that began in late sixteenth century Holland.
Tulips originated in Central Asia where they grew in the wild. The word tulip means turban and
comes from a Turkish word, turbend. Tulips were cultivated in Turkey as early as 1,000 AD.
In August of 1593, Carolus Clusius received a gift of tulip bulbs from his friend, Ogier Ghiselain de
Busbecq, the ambassador of Constantinople. He planted the bulbs and the spring of 1594 gave birth
to the first tulips of Holland. Clusius’s planting is still considered the birth of the Netherlands flower
The colorful flowers soon became major trading commodities. Different color strains and mutations
were status symbols and in such high demand in the 1600’s that tulips were often sold by estimated
weight, even before they were lifted from the ground. Trading in tulip futures
was dubbed as
“tulpenwindhandel” (tulip wind trade). Soon this speculative trading got out of hand and the Dutch
government introduced trade restrictions to quash it.
The most popular tulip color has always been, and remains to be red. However, yellow closely
follows red as the second most popular color.