We’re no historians – however, we have been known to fall into the category of zany plant people. The story and/or myth of Tulip Mania is a wonderful cross-pollination of history, speculation, and plant craze. Given that today is Plant Appreciation Day, it only seems appropriate to honor a bulb that is rooted (supposedly) in the first economic bubble.
TULIP MANIA: A Brief History
In the 1600’s, the Dutch economy plummeted due to an unstable market. At the time, there was a growing fascination for exotic alluring luxury items from Asia and the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), such as Chinese porcelain and art.
This is where our bud, the tulip, comes in. Hailing from Central Asia (modern day Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan), the astonishing beauty of the tulip weeded itself throughout northern Europe. According to BBC and Focus Economics, a single bulb of Semper Augustus was worth 5,500 guilders in 1633. Then, four years later in 1637, the sum had nearly doubled to 10,000 guilders. In today’s currency, one single bulb would have cost $5,700.
Bulbs were speculated to have been traded multiple times per day for a value of up to of an entire estate and were acceptable as dowry for a bride. However, a few years later, the love for the bulb faded to merely the price of an onion – hopefully, it was at least an organic onion.
So, what’s the lesson here? Be wary of irrational investments and enjoy tulips for more practical reasons - like how these bulbs signal warmer soil temperatures and look really good in your garden.