The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, of which up to 109 species have been described and which belongs to the family Liliaceae. The genus's native range extends from as far west as Southern Europe, Israel, North Africa, Anatolia, and Iran to the Northwest of China. The tulip's centre of diversity is in the Pamir, Hindu Kush, and Tien Shan mountains.  A number of species and many hybrid cultivars are grown in gardens, as potted plants, or to display as fresh-cut flowers. Most cultivars of tulip are derived from Tulipa gesneriana.
A view inside some tulips, showing the stamens and stigmas
Tulips are spring-blooming perennials that grow from bulbs. Depending on the species, tulip plants can grow as short as 4 inches (10 cm) or as high as 28 inches (71 cm). The tulip's large flowers usually bloom on scapes or subscapose[further explanation needed] stems that lack bracts. Most tulips produce only one flower per stem, but a few species bear multiple flowers on their scapes (e.g. Tulipa turkestanica). The showy, generally cup or star-shaped tulip flower has three petals and three sepals, which are often termed tepals because they are nearly identical. These six tepals are often marked on the interior surface near the bases with darker colorings. Tulip flowers come in a wide variety of colors, except pure blue (several tulips with "blue" in the name have a faint violet hue).
Tip of a tulip stamen. Note the grains of pollen
The flowers have six distinct, basifixed stamens with filaments shorter than the tepals. Each stigma of the flower has three distinct lobes, and the ovaries are superior, with three chambers.[further explanation needed] The tulip's fruit is a capsule with a leathery covering and an ellipsoid to subglobose shape.[further explanation needed] Each capsule contains numerous flat, disc-shaped seeds in two rows per chamber. These light to dark brown seeds have very thin seed coats and endosperm that does not normally fill the entire seed.
Tulip stems have few leaves, with larger species tending to have multiple leaves. Plants typically have 2 to 6 leaves, with some species having up to 12. The tulip's leaf is strap-shaped, with a waxy coating, and leaves are alternately arranged on the stem; these fleshy blades are often bluish green in color.
Origin of the name
Although tulips are often associated with the Netherlands, commercial cultivation of the flower began in the Ottoman Empire. Tulips, or lale (from Persian ????, lâleh) as they are also called in Iran and Turkey, comprise many species that together are indigenous to a vast area encompassing parts of Asia, Europe and north Africa. The word tulip, which earlier appeared in English in forms such as tulipa or tulipant, entered the language by way of French tulipe and its obsolete form tulipan or by way of Modern Latin tulipa, from Ottoman Turkish tülbend ("muslin" or "gauze"), and is ultimately derived from Persian ????? dulband ("turban").
In Persia, to give a red tulip was to declare your love. The black center of the red tulip was said to represent the lover's heart, burned to a coal by love's passion. To give a yellow tulip was to declare your love hopelessly and utterly.
On this illustration on the right is shown a tulip's fruit.
Tulips are indigenous to mountainous areas with temperate climates and need a period of cool dormancy, known as vernalization. They thrive in climates with long, cool springs and dry summers. Although perennials, tulip bulbs are often imported to warm-winter areas of the world from cold-winter areas, and are planted in the fall to be treated as annuals.
Tulip bulbs are typically planted around late summer and fall, in well-drained soils, normally from 4 inches (10 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm) deep, depending on the type planted. In parts of the world that do not have long cool springs and dry summers, the bulbs are often planted up to 12 inches (30 cm) deep. This provides some insulation from the heat of summer, and tends to encourage the plants to regenerate one large, floriferous bulb each year, instead of many smaller, non-blooming ones. This can extend the life of a tulip plant in warmer-winter areas by a few years, but it does not stave off degradation in bulb size and the eventual death of the plant due to the lack of vernalization.
Tulips can be propagated through bulb offsets, seeds or micropropagation. Offsets and tissue culture methods are means of asexual propagation for producing genetic clones of the parent plant, which maintains cultivar genetic integrity. Seed-raised plants show greater genetic variation, and seeds are most often used to propagate species and subspecies or to create new hybrids. Many tulip species can cross-pollinate with each other, and when wild tulip populations overlap geographically with other tulip species or subspecies, they often hybridize and create genetically mixed populations. On the other hand, most commercial tulip cultivars are complex hybrids, and actually sterile. Those hybrid plants that do produce seeds most often have offspring dissimilar to the parents.
Growing salable tulips from offsets requires a year or more of growth before plants are large enough to flower. Tulips grown from seeds often need five to eight years of growth before plants are flowering size. Commercial growers usually harvest the tulip bulbs in late summer and grade them into sizes; bulbs large enough to flower are sorted and sold, while smaller bulbs are sorted into sizes and replanted, for sale in the future. Holland is the world's main producer of commercially sold tulip plants, producing as many as 3 billion bulbs annually, the majority for export.
Introduction to Western Europe
Further information: Tulip mania
Tulip cultivation in the Netherlands
Although it is unknown who first brought the tulip to Northwestern Europe, the most widely accepted story is that it was Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, an ambassador for Ferdinand I of Germany to Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. He remarked in a letter that he saw "an abundance of flowers everywhere; Narcissus, hyacinths and those in Turkish called Lale, much to our astonishment because it was almost midwinter, a season unfriendly to flowers." However, in 1559, an account by Conrad Gessner described tulips flowering in Augsburg, Bavaria in the garden of Councillor Herwart. Due to the nature of the tulip's growing cycle, tulip bulbs are generally removed from the ground in June and must be replanted by September to endure the winter. While possible, it is doubtful that Busbecq could successfully have had the tulip bulbs harvested, shipped to Germany, and replanted between his first sighting of them in March 1558 and Gessner's description the following year. As a result, Busbecq's account of the supposed first sighting of tulips by a European is possibly spurious.
Carolus Clusius planted tulips at the Imperial Botanical Gardens of Vienna in 1573 and later at the Leiden University's newly established Hortus Botanicus, where he was appointed director. There he planted some of his tulip bulbs in late 1593. As a result, 1594 is considered the official date of the tulip's first flowering in the Netherlands, despite reports of the flowers being cultivated in private gardens in Antwerp and Amsterdam two or three decades earlier. These tulips at Leiden would eventually lead to both Tulip mania and the commercial tulip industry in Holland.
The reproductive organs of a tulip
Another account of the origin of the tulip in Western Europe is of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, governor of the Portuguese possessions in India. After attempting to usurp power from the rightful governor, Sampaio was forced to return to Portugal in disgrace.[clarification needed] Supposedly, he took tulip bulbs back to Portugal with him from Sri Lanka. This story does not hold up to scrutiny though because tulips do not occur in Sri Lanka and the island itself is far from the route Sampaio's ships would have likely taken.
Regardless of how the flower originally arrived in Europe, its popularity soared quickly. Carolus Clusius is largely responsible for the spread of tulip bulbs in the final years of the sixteenth century. He finished writing the first major work on tulips in 1592, and he made note of the variations in colour that help make the tulip so admired. While occupying a chair as a faculty member in the school of medicine at the University of Leiden, Clusius planted both a teaching garden and private plot of his ownwith tulip bulbs. In 1596 and 1598, Clusius suffered thefts from his garden, with over a hundred bulbs stolen in a single raid.
Between 1634 and 1637, the early enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative frenzy now known as the tulip mania. Tulips would become so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency. Around this time, the ceramic tulipiere was devised for the display of cut flowers stem by stem (bouquets displayed in vases were rare until the 19th century, although such vases and bouquets, usually including tulips, often appeared in Dutch still-life painting). To this day, tulips are associated with the Netherlands, and the cultivated forms of the tulip are often called "Dutch tulips." In addition to the tulip industry and tulip festivals, the Netherlands has the world's largest permanent display of tulips at Keukenhof, although the display is only open to the public seasonally.
Introduction to the United States
It is believed the first tulips in the United States were grown near Spring Pond at the Fay Estate in Lynn and Salem, Massachusetts. From 1847 to 1865, a historic land owner named Richard Sullivan Fay, Esq., one of Lynn's wealthiest men, settled on 500 acres (2.0 km2) located partly in present-day Lynn and partly in present-day Salem. While there, Mr. Fay imported many different trees and plants from all parts of the world and planted them among the meadows of the Fay Estate.
Variegated colours produced by TBV or Tulip Breaking Virus
Botrytis tulipae is a major fungal disease affecting tulips, causing cell death and eventually the rotting of the plant. Other pathogens include anthracnose, bacterial soft rot, blight caused by Sclerotium rolfsii, bulb nematodes, other rots including blue molds, black molds and mushy rot.
Variegated varieties admired during the Dutch tulipomania gained their delicately feathered patterns from an infection with the tulip breaking virus, a mosaic virus that was carried by the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae. These aphids were common in European gardens of the seventeenth century. While the virus produces fantastically colourful flowers, it also causes weakened plants prone to decline.
Today the virus is almost eradicated from tulip growers' fields. Tulips that are affected by mosaic virus are called "broken tulips"; while such tulips can occasionally revert to a plain or solid colouring, they will remain infected with the virus. While some modern varieties also display multicoloured patterns, the patterns result from breeding selection for a genetic mutation. In these tulips, natural variation in the upper and lower layers of pigment in the flower are responsible for the patterns.
In art and culture
An Iranian coin with Tulip
During the Ottoman Empire, the tulip became very popular in Ottoman territories and was seen as a symbol of abundance and indulgence. In fact, the era during which the Ottoman Empire was wealthiest is often called the Tulip era or Lale Devri in Turkish.
In classic and modern Persian literature, special attention has been given to these beautiful flowers, and in recent times, tulips have featured in the poems of Simin Behbahani. However, the tulip was a topic for Persian poets as far back as the thirteenth century. Musharrifu'd-din Saadi,[clarification needed] in his poem Gulistan, described a visionary, garden paradise with 'The murmur of a cool stream / bird song, ripe fruit in plenty / bright multicoloured tulips and fragrant roses...'
The Black Tulip is the title of a historical romance by the French author Alexandre Dumas, père. The story takes place in the Dutch city of Haarlem, where a reward is offered to the first grower who can produce a truly black tulip.
Today, Tulip festivals are held around the world, including in the Netherlands and Spalding, England.There is also a very popular festival, in Morges, Switzerland. Every spring, there are several tulip festivals in North America, including the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley, Washington, the Tulip Time Festival in Orange City and Pella, Iowa, and the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canada. Tulips are now also popular in Australia and several festivals are held in September and October, during the Southern Hemisphere's spring.
Scientifically, the genus Tulipa was traditionally divided into two sections, the Eriostemones, and the Leiostemones (syn. Tulipa),  and comprises 87 species. 
In 1997 the two sections were raised to subgenera and the subgenus Leiostemones divided into five sections, Clusianae, Eichleres, Kopalkowskiana, Tulipanum and Tulipa. The Eichleres were in turn subdivided into eight series. Subgenus Eriostemones is divided into three sections, Biflores, Sylvestres, and Saxatiles. Other classifications do however exist. In 2009 two other subgenera were proposed, Clusianae and Orithyia (four in all), the latter two only having one section, making twelve sections in all. Some species formerly classified as Tulipa are now considered to be in a separate genus, Amana, including Amana edulis (Tulipa edulis).