Clusius tulips

Jim McKenney
Mon, 05 Nov 2007 06:57:56 PST
Ben Zonneveld wrote: "I know the story about Clusius ( I work at the Clusius
lab,!) and Busbeq. I don't doubt he got them in several colours from seed.
Does that prove that these were already cultivated tulips? I don't think so
as several species can be found in the wild with a mixture of colours
Like T clusiana and T kaufmanniana. In the wild there are many too with
mixed colours I saw beautiful yellow edged T greigii ( normally red)in
the wild. A different colored edge often comes from unicolored
parents. That is not due to a virus

I think there is something we are missing in this thread about the tulips of

Although it is true that Clusius used the word seed to describe the entities
Busbeq sent him, there is reason to believe that he meant the word
metaphorically, not literally. In his account in his Historia, he describes
these entities as "Magnum seminis... quod vetusta essent, & vieta, vixque
nascitura.)" - loosely translated into plain English, "Lots of seed...old,
shriveled and scarcely to be germinated".

Anyone who has grown tulips from seed knows that tulip seeds don't shrivel.
Ten year old tulip seeds look just like freshly harvested tulip seeds. Wild
tulips produce hard seeds separated by thin, papery chaff. Garden tulips
often produce shriveled seeds and seeds separated by wet, rubbery aborted

Tulip bulbs kept out of the ground for a year however will be shriveled. 

This suggests that what Clusius  received were either old shriveled bulbs or
the sort of partially shriveled seed often seen in garden tulips.  

With respect to the existence of species which show color variation, and in
particular with respect to Tulipa clusiana (in the contemporary sense of
that combination) I would be surprised to learn that the various color forms
are sympatric. Tulipa kaufmanniana on the other hand does seem to exist in
populations which show color variation. And I suspect that such variable
populations are themselves the result of recent hybridization in nature as
formerly separate populations merge.  

Furthermore, simple color variations often behave as simple recessive traits
in breeding. In other words, if you cross a typical plant with one which
shows a simple recessive color variation, the variation is not likely to
appear in the progeny in the first generation. It will only appear in
subsequent generations when there is the chance that the recessive pairs can
match up with one another. 

Thus, if the seeds or bulbs which Clusius got had been produced from parents
one of which was typical and the other of which had a simple recessive color
variation, the chances are that all of the flowers seen in the first
generation would be typical: one would not expect the sort of variation
Clusius reported in the first generation, only in subsequent generations.  

I say this evidence adds to the point of view that the material Clusisus
received was of hybrid origin and more than likely of garden hybrid origin.

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7 where Notholirion thomsonianum
is putting up foliage. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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