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What are some facts about tulips?

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Quick Answer

One of the most interesting facts about tulips is that the multicolored streaks on some blossoms are caused by viral infections that causes the color to disappear as the petals develop. Another interesting fact is that tulips were the focus of a commodity trading bubble in the Netherlands in the 1600s when people assigned great value to them for their beauty and rarity.

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Full Answer

Tulips are originally from Turkey and were exported to Europe in the 1500s. They were expensive and became a status symbol for wealthy families. Holland had a strong economy at the time and the tulip’s value was inflated by popular demand. By 1598 the bulbs were so valuable they were sometimes stolen. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica a “tulip mania” took place between 1633 and 1637. Records show that one bulb of the Semper Augustus pattern was worth 3000 Dutch guilders, or about $1600 in 2014's currency. This trend lasted until 1637 when the prices suddenly dropped and many investors were wiped out financially. Modern economists and journalists have made comparisons between the Dutch tulip mania and the more recent dotcom bubble, the mortgage crisis, and the current Bitcoin trend.

According to Vincent Racaniello Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University, there are four types of viruses that can attack the bulb and cause bars, stripes, feathering, flames or streaks in the petals. These variations made the tulip more popular in the Netherlands but also caused the bulb to wither and cease flowering.

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