NECMİ AKSOY / In the Pursuit of a Forgotten Love for Tulip from Istanbul

(Gulhane Park, Sultanahmet & Emirgan)

(Past and present Passion for flowers: Tulipomania)

Prepared by Necmi Aksoy*

Duzce University Faculty of Forestry & DUOF Herbarium

Tulips are an everlasting symbol of Istanbul and Turkey, not the familiar varieties with rounded incurving petals seen in northern Europe and North America, but with pointed outward directed petals in the shape of daggers or needles. This stylized tulip decorates the mall between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and emphasizes these features, Representing an entire period of Turkish history as well as an on-going love affair between the city and the tulip. Millions of dollars ( even more in lira) have been spent on plantings all over Istanbul with a tulip festival annually.

Wild-growing tulips in Iran and Eastern Turkey were imported to Istanbul before the 15th C but were heavily cultivated in gardens and flowerbox settings in Istanbul as well as depicted in art and craft. From here came the spread of tulipomania to Western Europe and Holland in particular in the 1630's. The English word tulip is derived from the Turkish word for helmet, to which the flower bears a vague resemblance. Tulip gardening was a hobby of the rich and powerful in Turkey, considered both relaxing and spiritual, and especially favored by the sultans and grand viziers. Surprisingly, even though tulips extended west from Istanbul, the tulipomania of the 1630's in northern Europe did not occur in Turkey until the so-called "Tulip Period" in the early 18th C. Sultan Ahmet III among others was obsessed with gardens, tulips, and garden parties driving bulb prices to insane levels. Others with great interest included Admiral Mustafa Pasa who invented over 40 new tulip breeds.

The Tulip Period was one of relative peace for Turkey with an emphasis on art, culture, and architecture with a Baroque orientation derived from contact with the remainder of Europe. Crushing defeats in European battles late in this time span brought increasing unrest and outrage against the excesses of the ruling classes and the government stepped in to control the tulip trade, ending the Tulip Period and royal foolishness. Tulips gradually disappeared from Istanbul life, only to be reborn in the last few years. 

The Tulip festival will start to in the between  5-6th  and  till 30th April 2014 in Istanbul. This year will organize to early than before because of the dry season of spring and general municipality elections of Turkey.

Origins of Tulips

If you can  discover the origins of Tulips in historical peninsula, Hippodrome, Basilica of St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Gulhane Park and Sultan Ahmet (Blue Mosque Square), to visit the Hippodrome and then the domed Basilica of St. Sophia, which has inspired architects and religious leaders for over fifteen hundred years. Constructed in 326 by Constantine the Great, it has been a cathedral, a mosque, and now a museum. Then continue the day with magnificent Topkapi Palace whose garden was mentioned in The Garden Book. To see  a unique Blue Mosque built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmet. The interior walls are covered with twenty thousand blue Iznik tiles. 

The Tulip festival will start to inthe between  5-6th  and  till 30th April 2014 in Istanbul. This year will organize to early than before because of the dry season of spring and general municipality elections of Turkey.

*Necmi AKSOY, PhD.

Associate Professor

Duzce University, Faculty of Forestry

Head of Department of Forest Botany 

& Curator of Faculty of Forestry Herbarium (DUOF)


e-mail: /