A Close-up View of

Still Another Parrot Tulip

Tulipa x hybrida

by Brian Johnston   (Canada)

Please 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 centimetres.

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 overall structure.

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 earlier article.

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 centre.

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 (botanical) art!

Photographic Equipment

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 Macroscopic Delights

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.

 All comments to the author Brian Johnston are welcomed.

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