The genus Tulipa belongs to the family of Liliaceae that comprises about 100 species of plants that originate in Europe, West and Central Asia as well as North Africa. It is a perennial bulbous plant growing up to 40 cm.
The tulip originated centuries ago in Persia and Turkey, where it played a significant role in the art and culture of the time. The ancient Persian love story of Farhad and Sherin give tulips their meaning of perfect love. According to legend, Farhad was an engineer and craftsman who fell in love with princess Sherin. Tricked by his rival into believing Sherin had died, Farhad took his own life. Where his blood hit the ground, a red tulip bloomed.
Tulips were first cultivated in Persia (Iran) about 1000 years ago. They are a motif on Iranian money and its flag and are featured prominently during New Year celebrations. The most known meaning of tulips is perfect and deep love. By the 1200s, tulips made their way to Turkey. As the Turks expanded the Ottoman Empire, conquering Persia, they “discovered” tulips. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent adored them, so Turkish botanists began breeding these wildflowers.
Turks had the tradition of wearing tulips in one’s turban, thus the association of the word with the turban, for it is believed that the name of the genus Tulipa comes from the Turkish word tülbent meaning ‘turban’ due to the likeness of the flower to a turban. In the 1500s, foreign dignitaries visiting the Sultan’s court became enamoured by these flowers and sent bulbs home. From there and Iran the tulip found its home in the Netherlands which is the country most known for its tulip industry.
In Cyprus, the genus is represented by 3 species; the endemic Tulipa akamasica and Tulipa cypria and the acclimated foreign species Tulipa agenensis. They grow in April and are endemic to Cyprus on Akamas, at Kormakitis, Myrtou, Panagra and at the Pentadactylos mountain range. Recently the Tulipa cypria has appeared in the Carpas peninsula, near Ayios Sergios. They are very rare and strictly protected.
The watercolour is by Milla Cavendish and part of the CVAR collection.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus)