Brief History of Tulips

Feast your eyes on these exquisite flowers with a storied past by learning the history of tulips.

| Fall 2014

Spectacular, brilliantly colored tulips are among the showiest and most varied of all the spring-blooming perennial plants. Happily they are also some of the easiest ornamentals to grow!

And in addition to their usefulness to todays busy weekend gardeners, tulips are steeped in history and rich in both lore and tradition.

(see Slideshow above for more tulips varieties)

Origins of the tulip

“Tulip” is a strange-sounding name of Middle Eastern origin. Tulips were unknown in the ancient Mediterranean; therefore there is no Greek or Latin name for them. Instead, “tulip” is a corruption of a Turkish word, tülbend, meaning “gauze” or “muslin”—which in turn is derived from the Persian word delbend, meaning “turban.”

It is believed that the application of the word "turban" to the flower is either the result of the latter's resemblance in shape and brilliance to the flamboyant turbans of the Ottoman court. Another more likely story says that because the Turks frequently wore cut tulip flowers in their turbans, early translators were simply confused between the words for the flower versus the word for the garment! In reality, the Turks, like the Persians before them, called tulips “lale” or “laleh.”

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