Tulip lovers have a new website to explore: www.tulipsinthewild.com features a first-ever online glimpse of images of rare wild tulip species in their remote mountain native habitats. The site, created by the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and the U.S. bulb seller Colorblends, follows a group of Dutch bulb enthusiasts on a two-decade quest to some of the world’s most forbidding mountain ranges as they find and photograph little-known tulip species in the wild.
Despite their genteel garden image, tulips in the wild are native to harsh landscapes in hard-to-reach corners of the world. They’re often found clinging to barren mountain ledges exposed to wind, cold and drought. The contrast of harsh habitat and colorful tulips makes for some breathtaking photographs, most shot in the wilds of the Himalayan, Caucasus, Tien Shan, Elburz and Pamir mountain ranges of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
There’s the white and yellow Tulipa regelii, an exquisite wild tulip with ground-hugging leaves weirdly ribbed like a radiator, the better to thrive under the growing conditions of the Chu-Ili Mountains (800m/2,600ft) of Kazakhstan where spring days can be searing hot and nights below freezing. Deep red Tulipa lanata is seen clinging to a rock crevice in the rugged Gissar Mountains (1,300m/4,300ft) of Uzbekistan where “its large flowers wave like scarlet handkerchiefs on the cliffs.” Tulipa behmiana is shown growing in dry soil near Lake Balkhash (1,000m/3,300ft) in southeastern Kazakhastan. Its hard-skinned bulbs were discovered to have an odd wool-like fur lining thought to protect the bulbs from freezing underground in winter.
The tulipsinthewild.com site features an interactive map where users can click on a region to view the tulips that were photographed there. A selection of expedition shots is included plus forty-one tulip images with a description of each flower and where it was found.
The only frustration for many will be the fact that most of the tulips included in the project still exist only in the wild or in a few private collections. So for now, for those unwilling or unable to brave the wilderness, the best view of some of the rarest tulips on earth is just a click away, at www.tulipsinthewild.com. For those who wish to grow commercially-cultivated wild or near-wild tulips, Colorblends offers a fine selection.