unizeit
unizeit Schriftzug

Colourfulandhighly-prized

AtripinthemountainsofKazakhstanarousedtheinterestoftheecologistandphotographerDrAndreasMiethintulips.HepresentsthehomelandandhistoryofthepopularspringflowersinlecturesfortheSchleswig-HolsteinischeUniversitts-Gesellschaft(Schleswig-HolsteinUniversitySociety,SHUG).

Field with hundreds of thousends of tulips
Dr.AndreasMieth

Bynow,theNetherlandsproducestwobilliontulipbulbsperyear,aroundtwo-thirdsoftheworld'sproduction.

Brightred,yellowororange,fringedpetalsordoubleflowers-abouquetofcolourfultulipsbringsspringintothehome.Anditdoessoatalowprice.Itishardtobelievethataround400yearsago,duringtheDutchGoldenAge,tulipbulbswereanobjectofspeculation,asDrAndreasMiethfromtheCAUsInstituteforEcosystemResearch(SF)reported."Tulipbulbsweretradedinpubs,tavernsanddrinkingholesinAmsterdamandHaarlem.Theabundanceofalcoholflowingmayhavecontributedtothepricesfortulipbulbs,andalsothenatureofthetransactions,graduallybeginningtospiraloutofcontrol."Thehighpointofthespeculationwasreachedin1637.Asinglebulboftherarespecies"SemperAugustus"thencosttenthousandguilders,asmuchasatownhouseonanupmarketcanalinAmsterdam.Abigfamilycouldbefed,housedandclothedforhalftheirlivesfromsuchanamount,"saidtheKielscientist.TheninFebruary1637,thelegendaryDutchtulipbubbleburst.Withinafewweeks,thepricesfortulipbulbswereatrockbottom.Panicsalesatlowpricesbecameprevalent.Thevalueofthetulipbulbsonpaperfellfasterandfaster.Miethsaid"Tensofthousandsbecamebankrupt,representingalargeproportionofthecitizensintherichestcitiesoftheNetherlands.Thetulipmania,whichledtothefirsteconomiccrisisinEuropecausedbyspeculation,becameavaluablelessonineconomics-untiltoday."

Buttulipswerevaluableevenbeforethistime.InPersiaandtheOttomanEmpire,tulipswerehighly-prizedflowersintheroyalcourts,longbeforetheybecameknowninEurope.TulipswerealreadyadmiredinPersiaaround1000AD.AccordingtoMieth,thereonlyrulerswereallowedtocultivateandbreedtulipsintheirpalacegardens."ThepopularityoftulipsreachedahighpointduringthereignoftheOttomans,fromthemiddleofthe16thcentury.Thepreviously-forbiddenpictorialrepresentationoftulipswasthenallowed,andtheybecameapopularmotifonvaluableceramicsaswellasmuralsinthesultanspalacesinConstantinople.Thegardensofthepalacesweredesignedinsuchawaythatinadditiontothegardeners,onlythesultanhimselfcouldadmirethevaluabletulipsfromhischambers,"saidMieth.

ThecorehabitatofwildtulipsisinthecountriesofCentralAsiaandtheNearEast,aswellasGreece,CyprusandTurkey.MostofthespeciesofwildtulipsbloominKazakhstan.Miethtravelledthereinasmallgrouptofollowthetrailofwildtulips."Thistriphasgivenmeacompletelynewperspectiveontulips,"saidthebiologist.Hewasimpressedbyhowthelushredoryellowflowerscanflourishinthemidstofadrysteppeorinaridsemi-desertsoil.Thisfloraldisplayshortlyafterthesnowmeltsinearlyspringisreallyveryimpressive.Today,IcantgopastanytulipflowerswithoutbeingremindedoftheirhomelandinCentralAsia."

tulips in Kazakhstan
Dr.AndreasMieth

TheZinaidatulip(Tulipazenaidae)isoneoftheworldsrarestwildtulips.ItonlygrowsinasinglevalleyintheIleAlataumountainrangeinKyrgyzstan,whichformspartoftheNorthernTianShanmountainsystemintheborderregionbetweenKazakhstanandKyrgyzstan.

ThetulipcametoCentralandWesternEuropefromTurkeyinthemiddleofthe16thcentury.ThefirsttulipswereprobablycultivatedfromwildvarietiesundertheOttomanrulerSuleimanI."AnditisverylikelythatcultivatedtulipsaccompaniedtheTurkswhentheyinvadedEuropeinthe16thcenturyunderSuleimanandreachedthegatesofVienna,"believesMieth.InEurope,thisflowerfromtheTurksbecameknownastheTulipan(Turkishtlband=turban)-anallusionbothtotheconquerorwhobroughtthemwithhim,aswellastotheturban-likeshapeofthetulipflowerorthetulipbulb.

ThatthetulipbecameasymboloftheNetherlandsisduetothebotanistCarolusClusius.Atthetime,ClusiustravelledthroughoutEuropeinsearchofrareplants,includingtulipseedsandbulbs.In1592,hewasappointedheadofthemedical-botanicalgardensatLeidenUniversity."Finally,Clusiushadtheopportunitytoconductlarge-scalecultivation,researchandsystematisationoftulips,withthesecurityofpaidemployment.ThiswasthestartingpointoftulipcultivationinHolland,"explainedMieth,whohasalsotravelledtotheDutchtulip-growingregionstoexperiencetheothersideofthestory.

"Toseehowentirefieldsofcultivatedtulipstransformthecountrysideintoacolourfulcarpetofmillionsofflowersinthespringwasalsoveryimpressive."However,thetulipswhichbloominopenfieldsareexclusivelyforthecultivationofbulbs,explainedMieth.Attheheightoftheblooming,thetulipflowersaremowedoff,sothatthetulipplantsputtheirentiregrowtheffortsintothebulbs,insteadoftheseeds.Thetulipbulbs,nourishedbytheleaves,candevelopundisturbeduntilmidsummer.Thentheyareharvestedfromtheearth,cleanedandthesmalloffsetbulbsareremoved.Thelargebulbsaresold,andtheyoungoffsetbulbsareplantedagaininSeptember.

ThefactthattheNetherlandstodayproducesthevastmajorityoftheworld'stulipbulbs,isalsobecausetheDutchwestcoastoffersoptimalgrowingconditions."Thesoilshavesimilarpropertiestothesemi-desertsofKazakhstan.Theyarerichinclayandnutrients,andcandryoutinthesummer."Inthebiologistsexperience,tulipsthrivebestathomewherethesoilishygroscopic.Miethsaid"Inloamy,waterloggedsoil,youwontenjoytulipbulbsforverylong."Andhehasanotherbitofadvice:"Wildtulipvarieties,suchasTulipakaufmanniana,aremuchmorehardythancultivatedtulips.Theygrowbackbeautifullyeveryyear,formanyyears.However,theymayonlybeacquiredfrompropagatedstocks,andcertainlynotfromnaturalstocks,"emphasisedMieth.

Author:KerstinNees

DrAndreasMieth:Flowerofkings,merchantsandemperors-ajourneythroughthehomelandandhistoryoftulips.LecturepresentedbytheSchleswig-HolsteinischeUniversitts-Gesellschaft(Schleswig-HolsteinUniversitySociety,SHUG).22Septemberat8pm,GlinderMhle.TheSHUGlectureon14MayinHaderslebenhasbeencancelledduetothecoronaviruspandemic.