Millions of tourists visit Holland every spring to admire our flowering tulips. The Netherlands is known for its tulips, but tulips were not originally from the Netherlands. So I delved into the history of tulips to find out where tulips come from and why tulips are now known as typically Dutch and have become an icon of The Netherlands.
Tulips came from Central Asia via Turkey, Vienna, and Antwerp to the Netherlands. Tulips were introduced to the Netherlands by Carolus Clusius at the end of the 16th century and grew well in the Dutch climate.
Read on to learn more about the history of our “typical Dutch tulips.”
How Did Tulips Arrive In The Netherlands?
Many stories circulate on the Internet that tulips originally came from Turkey, but that is not entirely true. However, Turkey did serve as a stopover for tulips on their way to Holland.
Originally, tulips came from Central Asia and thrived in these mountainous areas. Tulips need cold nights and cold winters, a climate found in mountainous regions.
The story goes that the Turks saw tulips on their campaigns in Central Asia in the 16th century and were very impressed with them. So they took tulip bulbs with them back to Turkey to start cultivating tulips in Turkey as well. The name tulip is derived from the Persian word for a turban Tulipan because the shape of a tulip is very similar to the form of a turban.
The Turkish sultan occasionally donated a few tulip bulbs to important relations such as the Austrian emperor’s envoy to his court, the Fleming Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke. In turn, he donated a few tulip bulbs to another Fleming, Carolus Clusius, who was then in charge of the Austrian emperor’s hortus botanicus in Vienna.
In 1593, Carolus Clusius came to the Netherlands to become a professor at the University of Leiden. He founded the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden and began growing tulips in the Netherlands there. The area just above Leiden, the Bulb Region, proved to have an ideal climate for growing bulbs on a large scale.
Tulips; From Status Symbol To Commodity
In the 16th and 17th centuries, tulips were still grown and bred on a small scale, making them a status symbol. As a result, tulip bulbs became extremely expensive, and between 1634 and 1637, there was even a real tulip mania in which the prices of tulips reached record heights.
At one point, a tulip bulb cost as much as a canal house on a sought-after canal in Amsterdam, and they were already insanely expensive. At some point, the government put an end to this bubble. Growing tulips continued, however, because tulips were also very popular abroad and proved to be an ideal trade product.
Dutch traders roamed all over the world, taking, among other things, good shelf-life tulip bulbs with them to trade. That is one of the main reasons the Netherlands is known for tulips.
That image is still carefully cultivated because it is a fantastic tourist attraction that brings many tourists to Holland.
Today, more than 2 billion tulips are grown annually in the Netherlands, and tulips have become a mass product. Almost all of the tulip bulbs are exported, and the Netherlands earns more than €300 mln annually from the export of tulip bulbs.
Of course, growing such a quantity can no longer be done only in the Bulb Region, so more regions of the Netherlands have become home to many tulips.
Where Are Tulips Fields In The Netherlands?
There are several regions in the Netherlands where tulips are now grown. It is no coincidence that most of these regions are close to water because you have colder nights there, which is very good for growing tulips.
The 6 tulip regions with the most tulip fields in the Netherlands are:
- Bollenstreek (Keukenhof)
- North Holland North
- West Friesland
- Beemster polder
I described these 6 tulip regions in the Netherlands in another article on this website to inform you where and when you can best enjoy the tulips in the Netherlands without too many traffic jams and hordes of tourists.