The Wild Tulips of Chios: “Lalades”

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The Wild Tulips of Chios.

There are four species of wild tulip on Chios. They flower in March and April, flooding the meadows with a sudden flush of colour. The blooms do not last long – 7-10 days – after which they give way to foliage that has a few short weeks in which to set seed and gather energy before the leaves wither and the bulb goes into dormancy until the following year. Human agricultural activity seems to suit the tulips as they are mostly seen in cultivated areas. The plants originated in Central Asia in the mountains of Pakistan and Kazakhstan from where they spread gradually westwards. It has been said that the ‘tulip fever’ that gripped Holland in the 17th century came about as a result of the travels of a Dutch botanist, Carolus Clusius, in the 16th century and the collections of wild plants that he made. It is certainly known that Clusius was in Smyrna at the right time, but there does not seem to be any definite indication that either he or any other Dutch travellers collected bulbs from Chios, as has been claimed. Other collectors had certainly carried tulips to western Europe before Clusius. The tulip was widely admired and cultivated throughout the Ottoman Empire . This is echoed in the local name for tulips, “lalades”, surely an appropriation of the Turkish word for the plant, “lale”.


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Filmed By Panos Mavrakis