The tullip is an integral part of the famous logo used to promote tourism in Turkey but where did it get its name and why is it so Turkish?
This year we are pleased to note that Fethiye Council planted tulips, and other spring bulbs, in some places instead of the usually ubiquitous pansies and that got us thinking about the origins and history of this wonderful bulb.
The tulip was first introduced to the west from Turkey with Oger Ghiselin de Busbecq, a French ambassador to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent, taking credit for its discovery when he first visited Turkey in 1554.
As many readers will know, the Turkish word for ‘tulip’ is ‘lale’.
This name gives the flower its importance, as in the Ottoman script lale was written with the same characters as ‘Allah’
So why do we call it a tulip and not a lale?
It seems Busbecq is to blame. He did not know the name of the flower and, seeing a bloom tucked into a turban, asked his interpreter what it was.
The interpreter thought he was asking about the head-covering, not the flower, and informed him it was a tulband, the Ottoman Turkish word for a turban.
Busbecq wrote this down as tulipam, and later shortened it to ‘tulip’.
There are still tulips growing in the wild in Turkey, but to see them you’ll need to go east to regions around Erzerum and Van.