Close-up View of
Tulipa x hybrida
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
note: The images shown here were intended to be used in
one of the two Parrot Tulip articles in Micscape December
2006. At the time, I was not entirely happy with the
appearance of the white waxy coating on the outer surfaces of
the buds and flowers, so I went back the next day to purchase
a second bunch of flowers. These second flowers were
much more photogenic, and I decided to use them instead for
the article. Here, seven years later, is the article
with those original (not so photogenic) images.
Although tulips are often associated with the Netherlands, they
are not a native Dutch flower! About four hundred years
ago Europeans first discovered tulips in Turkey. At that
time Carolus Clusius, a famous botanist, introduced the plant to
the Leiden botanical gardens in Holland. Since tulips were
extremely rare, and expensive, only Kings and Emperors could
afford to plant them in their gardens.
The immediate popularity of the tulip drove Clusius and other
horticulturalists to produce new colour variations to satisfy
the growing demand for the flowers. Over the years, many
tulip forms were produced by crossing and hybridizing
techniques. Some had frilly petals, and dramatic
flame-like colourations, that later became known as “Parrot
tulips”. In the 20th century, these distinctive
characteristics were found to be the symptoms of the mosaic virus which was
transported to the tulip plant by a louse living on peaches and
potatoes! Today, hybrids have been developed with similar
visual characteristics, but without the virus infection.
Notice that unlike common tulips, the parrot tulip’s petals open
almost perpendicular to the stem when placed in a sunny
location. The bloom shown has a diameter of about fifteen
Somewhat earlier, the flowers
are just beginning to open. This is the stage that was
captured in the first article in which I studied this
species. Notice however, the unopened bud seen in both
images below. It is this bud-stage
that will be investigated in this article. You would be
mistaken to believe that buds are less interesting than the
mature flowers! As you will see, each bud is fascinatingly
different in both structure and colour.
Here is an example of a
“typical” parrot tulip bud. Out of the ordinary, isn’t it?
Two views of another bud,
taken on opposite sides can be seen below.
Details are as striking as the
Parrot tulip buds usually have
the shape of a slightly flatten cylinder. Here are two
views of the narrower face of a bud.
In contrast, here are several
views of the wider face of buds. Like fingerprints, every
face is unique, and in my view spectacularly sculptural!
Here is a view of the wider
face of a bud which has begun to open.
And here are some details
possessed by the previous bud.
Look at the strange green,
bract-like petal with central red stripe that is present in the
opening bud shown below.
Here are two more examples of
these green, bract-like petals on other buds.
A collection of images of
interesting bud detail follows.
As the bud opens, the
cup-shape of the typical tulip occurs at one stage.
The two images that follow
show the point of connection of flower to stem.
As you can see, the
reproductive structures are similar to those discussed in the
Finally, here is a partly open
flower with a yellow centre. The first image in the
article shows a similar flower with bright blue spots at its
I hope that the images in this
article have convinced you that it is not necessary to travel to
an art gallery to view modern sculpture. The buds of
the botanical marvel, the parrot tulip, transform any room
in which they are present into their own museum of modern
The macro-photographs were
taken with an eight megapixel Canon 20D DSLR equipped with a
Canon EF 100 mm f 2.8 Macro lens which focuses to 1:1. A
Canon 250D achromatic close-up lens was used to obtain higher
magnifications in several images.
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of
all of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World
of Chemical Crystals
A complete graphical index of
all of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the
March 2014 edition of Micscape.
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