Geography 316:  Biogeography  In progress 5/14/99

The Biogeography of Tulips

by Victoria Huff, student in Geography 316

Species Name: Tulipa Darwin


Above: the single late tulip 'Queen of the Night'

Kingdom:    Plantae/plant
Phylum:      Tracheophyta
Order:        Liliales
Family:      Liliaceae/lily
Genus:       Tulipa
Species:     Darwin, ('Queen of the Night')
                        (many, many species of tulips this is just one!)

Description of Species:

  Tulip-  any of various plants belonging to the genus Tulipa , of the lily family, having lance-shaped leaves and large, showy, cup-shaped o bell-shaped flowers in a variety of colors.  (Webster)  Tulip is also a Turkish word meaning:  Turban.

The tulip is mainly known to come from Holland starting back in 1571, however it originates from Central Asia.  "Somewhere in the Chinese province of Tienshan and in the southernmost part of the former Soviet Union, Pamir Alai, lies, as is now indisputably established, the cradle of the tulip."  (Van Der Horst, p.8)

 In 'Gardens and Gardening' (1951) is an article by Rollo Myere which begins as follows:
'In 1123 the tulips are already  mentioned in Russian literature under their Russian name  "Lola".  Although this word is not of Russian but of Turkish  origin, its use here indicates that also in Russia tulips had  become known much earlier than in Western Europe, where  they were introduced much later, in 1554.  ...  (Botschantzeva,  p. 2)
"The cultivated tulips were brought to Russia from Western Europe by Dutch merchants in the 16th and 17th centuries." (Botschantzeva, p.2)    In 1634, there was a 'Tulipomania' in Europe due to the beauty of the tulips, they spread rapidly all over Europe.   After Would War II, hundreds of thousands of bulbs were sent to Ottawa, Canada, from the Dutch to thank Canada for their hospitality during the war, so the Dutch Queen Maria could stay out of harms way.  Also the tulips were sent as a thank you for freeing Holland from German occupancy.   This goes to show that for the tulips to get to America they were brought by humans.

 The secret of the tulip is that the bulb is underground.  It withdraws from above ground to escape the summer heat, and it uses the ground in the winter to protect it and keep itself warm from the freezing temperatures of the winter.  The cold freezing ground makes the water in the tulip bulb expand and this damages the bulb, so it will not re-grow.  For this factor tulips generally do not grow above the 40  parallel.  "This parallel runs from Korea, Japan and China through Uzbekistan, Tajikista, and Turkmenistan, on to America and Turkey." (Van Der Horst, p.8)

 The tulip had three dispersal routes.  First was south to Kashmir, for its fertile fields and damp marshy banks, then over the Himalayas.  The tulip was known to grow in gardens in India.  Next the tulip traveled north to Mongolia and Priblakhash.  However the tulips did not last up at these latitudes due to the deep ground freezing.  Finally the tulip spread westward into Asia Minor.  After the tulip reached the Balkans it went to Europe, first to Italy then France and finally to Spain.  "From Spain the tulip traveled to the western and central parts of North Africa and finally found an unsurmountable barrier in the Sahara, which was too wide for the tulip seeds to be sent across." (Van Der Horst, p.11)

 The tulip is spread out by seeds.  From the densely populated grouped bulbs, the flours are pollinated, and the winds carry the seeds cross country in enormous clouds of dust.  There are other ways in which the tulip seeds are spread.  Such as by birds, who eat the seeds and latter the seeds come out in their droppings, and are dispersed around.  The seeds can also cling to the fur of animals and germinate where they land.

 The evolution of the tulip has got some interesting information.

 Buxbaum (1937) gave a scheme for the phylogenetic relations between the genera of the Tulipeae.  According to this scheme  the genus Tulipa branched off rather late from the main stem  of the Tulipeae, which means that it is one of the youngest  genera that have evolved in the flowering plants.  ...Buxbaum  regards the genus Iphigenia as the prototype of the entire sub  family.  The genus Gagea with the haploid chromosome  number, n=12, was the first to branch off.  From the  Platyospermum branch of this genus separated at an early  stage the ancestor of the genus Lloydia, which is also the  progenitor of our contemporary Lloydia and Girardiella  (Lloydia  serotina has n=12).  The common ancestor of  Fritillaria and Lilim (n=12) was the first to branch off from the  prototype of the genus Lloydia; the common ancestor of  Erythronium and Tulipa (n=12) followed later.  (Botschantzeva,  p. 7)

Today tulip is a horticulture crop in the Netherlands, Belgium, England, British Columbia, and the northwestern United States.  "From 1634 to 1637, during the so-called tulip mania, the wildest speculation in tulips prevailed.   Enormous prices were paid for individual bulbs-for example, about $5,200 for a bulb of the variety Semper Augustus." (Thieret, p. 211)

Above left:  The fringed tulip 'Crystal Beauty'.
Above right:  An impression of  'Black Parrot'.

Botschantzeva, Z. P. 1982. Tulips. Salem, N.H. M.B.S.

Van Der Horst, Arend Jan. 1996. The Tulip. Geat Britain. Rebo Poductions Ltd.
  (pictures from: 'The Tulip' book.)

Encyclopedia America. #27. 1982. Tulip. Thieret, John W. Danbury, Connecticut. Grolier Incorporated.

The New Desk Encyclopedia. 1997. New York, NY. Penguin Group.

Random House Webste's College Dictionary. 1997. New York, NY. Random House, Inc. . Tulip. 1994. Columbia University Press.

FTD- Language of Flowers. . Tulip. 1999. Florists' Transworld Delivery, Inc.

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