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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae

28. Tulipa Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 305. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 145. 1754.

Tulip, tulipe, tulipán [Persian thoulyban or Turkish tulbend, turban, alluding to the shape of the just-opening perianth]

Gerald B. Straley† & Frederick H. Utech

Herbs, perennial, scapose or subscapose, bulbose; bulbs often stoloniferous, tunicate, papery to coriaceous; tunics variously hairy or glabrous adaxially. Leaves 2–6(–12), cauline, alternate, reduced distally; blade linear to oblong, somewhat fleshy. Inflorescences 1(–4)-flowered, bracts usually absent. Flowers: perianth campanulate to cup-shaped; tepals caducous, 6, distinct, often blotched near base, petaloid, ± equal; nectaries absent; stamens 6, distinct; filaments shorter than tepals, basally dilated; anthers basifixed, linear to narrowly elliptic, introrse; ovary superior, 3-locular; style very short or absent; stigma prominently 3-lobed. Fruits capsular, ellipsoid to subglobose, 3-angled, leathery, dehiscence loculicidal. Seeds many, in 2 rows per locule, flat. x = 12.

Species ca. 150 (1 in the flora): introduced; North America, temperate Eurasia (especially c, w Asia), n Africa, cultivated worldwide.

The common garden tulip (Tulipa gesneriana Linnaeus) and a number of other species (T. bakeri Hall, T. clusiana de Candolle, T. fosteriana Hoog ex W. Irving, T. kaufmanniana Regel, T. tarda Stapf), as well as a vast array of complex hybrid cultivars, are commonly planted for their spring flowers. Over 3500 names applied to tulips are currently listed (J. van Scheepen 1996). While some of these species or cultivars may persist for a short time, they rarely become truly naturalized in the flora. Taxonomic difficulties abound in Tulipa due to their long-established cultivation, hybridization, and selection.

Viral infection of tulips results in odd, yet often attractive, colored streaks in the flowers. In the early 1600s these variants, called “broken” tulips, became prized in the Netherlands, widely sought, and worth considerable money. The ensuing “tulipomania” lead to widespread trading, speculation, and then, as with most similar fads, a sudden market collapse in 1637 (W. Blunt 1950; M. Dash 1999; F. A. Stafleu 1963).


Botschantzeva, Z. P. 1982. Tulips: Taxonomy, Morphology, Cytology, Phytogeography and Physiology, transl. and ed. H. Q. Varekamp. Rotterdam. Hall, A. D. 1940. The Genus Tulipa. London. Pavord, A. 1999. The Tulip. New York, London, and Bloomsbury.

Lower Taxon


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