Nothing says "spring" like a cheerful tulip! This week, we're featuring a colorful planting of them from the Mizzou Botanic Garden. These can be found on Lowry Mall, just off the northwest corner of Ellis Library. In the photo, you're seeing the iconic dome of Jesse Hall and the windows of Tate Hall in the background.
Tulips are native to the Mediterranean and Asia, and they were introduced to Western Europe around the end of the sixteenth century. They were (and still are) prized for their bright, showy flowers, and they became a symbol of status and luxury. You've probably already heard about the tulip craze in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, during which tulip bulbs sold for exorbitant sums to speculators. The tulip market reached a bubble in 1636 and crashed in 1637.
Unsurprisingly, tulips play a major role in one of the finest works on flowers published in the Netherlands during this period. Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus floridus (1614) is a florilegium, a book on flowering plants that discusses their ornamental, rather than medicinal uses (as we saw last week). Hortus floridus illustrates each plant at ground level, as it would have grown in a garden, and the plants are arranged by their bloom season. The beautifully detailed engravings were meant to be hand-colored, with descriptions noting what colors to use. Striped tulips, seen in the engravings below, were the most highly valued during this period.