What's in a Name?
Tulip History and Taxonomy

What's In a Name?

'Red Emperor' Tulip.
Tulipa fosteriana 'Red Emperor' is the botanical name of the tulip that thousands of Journey North participants are planting every year to mark the beginning of the spring season. We often call it by it's common name, 'Red Emperor,' but how does it get its whole name?

Its first name (botanically speaking), Tulipa, is the genus name and is the same for all tulips. It is derived from the Turkish word "tulpend" or turban, which the flower resembles.
Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia tells us it is a Foster Tulip (hence the name, fosteriana), and was probably named for the person that brought it to the attention of the plant industry, or the breeder who developed it. This is its species name.
Our tulips have a third name, "Red Emperor." This is called the variety name.

So, now we can call our tulips by their proper, or botanical name, Tulipa fostoriana 'Red Emperor.'

Naming Plants- A Short History
Because there are so many plants and new plants still being discovered and bred constantly, scientists have had to develop an organized system of naming plants. Often they were named for their characteristics. Some were given descriptive names for their appearance, like "pubescence" for hairy, or "glaucous" for waxy. Others were named for their healing properties or for the person who introduced them.

Naming practices varied. Many biologists gave the species they described long, unwieldy Latin names, which could be altered at will; a scientist comparing two descriptions of species might not be able to tell which organisms were being referred to. For instance, the common wild briar rose was referred to by different botanists as Rosa sylvestris inodora seu canina and as Rosa sylvestris alba cum rubore, folio glabro.

Carl Linnaeus Develops a Naming System

Courtesy of the Linnean Society of London.
In 1735, Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish doctor and naturalist, published SYSTEMA NATURAE, his classification of plants based on their sexual parts. His method of binomial nomenclature using genus and species names was further expounded when he published FUNDMENTA BOTANICA and CLASSES PLANTARUM. This system used the flower and the number and arrangements of its sexual organs of stamens and pistils to group plants into twenty-four classes which in turn are divide into orders, genera and species.

After experimenting with various alternatives, Linnaeus simplified naming immensely by designating one Latin name to indicate the genus, and one as a "shorthand" name for the species. The two names make up the binomial ("two names") species name. For instance, in his two-volume work SPECIES PLANTARUM (The Species of Plants), Linnaeus renamed the briar rose Rosa canina.
Linnaeus gave classification consistency and precision. He linked each of the specific names for everyday use with a descriptive name, which helped to identify the species concerned and limited the application of its two-word name to that one species.

History of the Tulip
Many people think of Holland as the home of the tulip. In fact tulips were unknown there until about the 16th century. Many cultivated varieties were widely grown in Turkey long before they were introduced to European gardens. The botanist Clusius is credited with first growing tulips from seed sent from Turkey. In 1593 he became Professor of Botany at the University of Leiden and planted tulips in his garden there. They were soon widely distributed throughout Holland and began appearing elsewhere in Europe. Foster tulips are native to Turkestan, in an area now called Kazakhstan.

Trade You a Tulip for Four Fat Oxen!
So popular did these bulbs become in Holland that "tulipomania" developed early in the 17th century. People began speculating in bulbs of new colors and unusual shapes and paying extravagant prices for them. For one bulb, the seller was reported to receive two loads of wheat, four fat oxen, eight fat pigs, twelve fat sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four barrels of beer, two barrels of butter, 1000 pounds of cheese, a bed, a suit of clothes and a silver beaker.

Tulips Are Bulbs
Bulbs are specialized underground plant parts that store food for the plant. Most bulb-type plants are herbaceous perennials in which the shoots die down at the end of a growing season, and the plant survives in the ground as a dormant, fleshy organ that bears buds to produce new shoots for the next season. These plants are well suited to withstanding periods of adverse growing conditions in their yearly growing cycle.

Truncate bulbs, like, tulip, daffodil and onion have outer bulb scales which are dry and membranous. This covering, or tunic, provides protection from drying and mechanical injury to the bulb. The fleshy scales are in continuous, concentric layers so the structure is more or less solid.

Bulbs have a special way of producing more of themselves. They can be propagated easily asexually, or without starting from a seed. Each year as they grow they form new bulbs that grow off the mother bulb. These can be separated and grown as a new bulb. Tulip breeders use all kinds of propagation methods from crossing two plants and collecting the seed to technical laboratory tissue culture techniques.

All in the Family!
Tulips are just one genus in the family 'Liliacea.' Other plants in this family can be found in:

Backyard gardens-
Garden and field Lilies
Lily of the Valley,

Clintonia (Blue Bead Lily)
False Solomons Seal
False Lily of the Valley
Solomon's Seal

Vegetable Gardens-