This week we’re celebrating the X-Men of the flower world: the parrot tulips that you often see today are truly the mutants of their genus, set apart from the generic tulip thanks to their captivating qualities. Make no mistake though, we’re not talking gruff, gritty ’n’ gravelly mutants like Hugh Jackman in that new Wolverine movie that just came out. Parrot tulips are mutants in all their comic book glory - bright bursts of different colours biff!-bang!-pow!-ing themselves into your sensory fields like few other flowers are capable of.
They’re actually known as ‘parrot’ tulips not simply for the vibrancy of their plumage but because of the frilly edges they possess. Those frilly waves along the fringes are what truly set them apart for the tulip connoisseur, and are said to resemble the ruffled feathers of a parrot.
Presumably this particular strand of tulip has always been highly sought after (there’s no way those insane Dutch-folk in the 1630s weren’t fiending, when you consider that bog-standard tulip bulbs could cost as much as an average yearly salary so beloved were they). However, the problem with parrot tulips was that they tended to have such weak stems they weren’t really viable for cultivation on a meaningful scale. It wasn’t until almost exactly three hundred years later that breeders were able to find ways round this weakness, and start to breed parrot tulips with stronger stems.
I’ll be quiet at this point and perhaps just let you to dwell on the photo up there of the parrot tulip (or better yet, encourage you to seek them out in the flesh). Much like Georgia O’Keefe’s own swirling, transfixing tulip paintings, the parrot tulip demands a closer look; a second look.