If there is one universal symbol the Netherlands it is the tulip.
These flowers became a focal point for an entire culture at the time of the Tulip mania or Tulpenmanie as the Dutch call it around 1637 AD.
The Dutch Republic as the Netherlands were known then had received a present in the face of the first bulbs and seeds of tulips by the Flemish writer and diplomat Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq. He reputedly brought them all the way from the Ottoman Empire where he was once an ambassador of Austria.
The flowers took root so to speak, and the botanist Carolus Clusius had a collection of them planted at the University of Leiden. Being a flower unlike any other in Europe at the time with its bright colors and beauty it quickly became a rising status symbol for the entirety of the Netherlands.
Free of the Spanish incursion, the Low Countries were once again part of their lands and this ushered a newly rekindled flair for trade which lead to the period known as the Golden Age. The new trading class surrounded itself with the flowers as a symbol, often having large gardens filled with them around their mansions.
At that time Dutch traders had incredible profits coming from their trade with the West Indies and later through their monopoly on their trade with Japan. Tulips became highly prized and their prices soared overtime, up to the point where Vincent Van Gogh included them in his works, inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock paintings.
In time the culture itself came up with names for different types of tulips as it is shown here:
- Couleren – these were single-color red, yellow or white tulips.
- Rosen – these were white tulups with red or pink streaks.
- Violetten – almost self-explanatory, lilac or purple with white streaks.
- Bizarden – a rare example of white streaks on red, brown or purple.
These strange colors appeared as a result of the so-called Tulip Breaking Virus or TBV, which infects tulips and lilies, breaking down their colors and allowing deviant combinations.
Its existence and effects in infecting tulip bulbs were not truly discovered all the way until 1979 so for a long time flower enthusiasts had no idea what caused this mutation.
Because of the uniqueness of every variation affected by the virus this soon spawned rare varieties of the tulip flower, coveted by the rich and poor alike. The popularity of the virus-infected bulbs was rapidly growing and overtime prices were incredibly high and at some point during the spring of 1637 prices dropped incredibly low due to people slowly becoming disillusioned and fed up with the madness on the market.
Reputedly at the height of the madness the price of a single tulip bulb was the equivalent of around $76 000! Traders speculated with the market at the time and used the growing mania to make rapid sales which eventually led to a total market collapse in the end because the prices were impossible to match.
During the centuries a lot has been written about this and even today the Tulip mania is given as an example on how crowds can behave irrationally over products, thus probably inspiring a lot of the modern market tricks and strategies for advertising. Even though the tulip mania ended, its legacy remains today as the flower is universally recognized as the symbol of the Netherlands and they are still highly sought after, albeit at more affordable prices.
If you want to find a truly classic example of a Tulip mania flower, you should try obtaining a Semper Augustus bulb, which at the time was the most highly sought-after variation of tulips produced by the viral infection.
The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of the Clogs and Tulips blog or its blogger.