Jueves, 22 Diciembre 2016 16:58

A study proves that tulips got to Europe through Al Andalus, 400 years before they arrived in Hollan

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Researchers at the University of Cordoba and the CSIC (Granada) (the Spanish National Research Council) discover the existence of the flower, originally from Turkey and national symbol of Holland, in botanical handbooks from the 11th century. The publication of their results in ‘Economic Botany’ surprises the scientific community.

In Aalsmeer thousands of tourists see the tulip auction daily. It is an event that Holland promotes touristically, but which symbolizes the value that these flowers, tulips, have for the country. Tulips are the national symbol and one of the country’s main sources of income thanks to exporting. And it has been this way since the 16th century when tulips arrived in the Netherlands thanks to the Ottoman Empire, and the Dutch were able to plant these flowers in all the courts of European royalty. For centuries, this has been the most accepted theory about the arrival of tulips in Europe. Until now.

The surprise came out in the scientific journal ‘Economic Botany’, published by the New York Botanical Garden. Professor Esteban Hernández Bermejo from the University of Cordova and researcher Expiración García from the School of Arab Studies of the Spanish National Research Council published an article in which they refute the idea of Holland’s monopoly on introducing tulips in Europe. According to Hernández Bermejo’s research team, tulips were already being grown in Europe 400 years before their arrival in Holland and they were grown in lands of Al Andalus, in what is now Andalusia, Castile La Mancha and part of the eastern coast of Spain.

According to Esteban Hernández, the discovery happened somewhat by chance. His team has been studying agriculture in Al Andalus for 20 years and, therefore, all the agricultural flora used by Arab farmers in the territory that is currently part of Spain. One of their recent studies, commissioned by the University of Harvard, was a paper on ornamental plants in the Middle Ages. From botany and farming handbooks from Al Andalus, that Arab Studies specialists translate consulting botanists and agricultural experts on technical matters, researchers from the University of Cordova and the Spanish National Research Council found out that at least five Narcissus species were commonly used. Among the species there was one that did not correspond morphologically or characteristically with the species Narcissus. This was a plant that medieval botanists called “Narcissus of Macedonia”.

Esteban Hernández explains that “neither in its shape, nor in its flowering period, could we think that plant was a narcissus”. So, the researchers analyzed the content of the agricultural agreements of Ibn Bassal from Toledo, one of the main experts in bulbous plants in all of the eleventh century medieval western world, and his Sevillian apprentices Abu al Jayr and Ibn al-Awwam (11th and 12th centuries) until concluding that indeed the flower they described as “a kind of narcissus in the shape of a funnel from Macedonia, on the Balkan Peninsula. It has a flower which is yellow on the inside and pink on the outside, in a cone shape. Inside there is another beautiful and fragrant flower. It grows in humid and mountainous places and it is grown like a yellow narcissus” was none other than a tulip.

The results of this research have surprised the scientific community to a certain extent. Hernández Bermejo and García Sánchez’s article in ‘Economic Botany’ has been accepted with interest by the scientific community. In the article, the researchers argue in great detail their reasons for believing that tulips came from Al Andalus before they became Dutch.

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