Tulips: An Ornamental Crop in the Andalusian Middle Ages


Tulips: An Ornamental Crop in the Andalusian Middle Ages. The authors are working on the
project “Crop Flora of al-Andalus,” which aims to recover the crop diversity of the Middle
Ages in western Europe during the Islamic period. The documental sources of this study are
all the agricultural treatises written in this territory and culture between the 10th and 14th
centuries. Al-Andalus was the territory occupied by Islam between the 8th and 15th centuries,
varying over time on varying regions on the Iberian Peninsula. In this period, a genuine
agricultural revolution took place, as well as the incorporation into the Western world of
many Eastern agricultural species. When we focused on the study of ornamental species used
in gardens, courtyards, and houses, tulips could be identified in several texts, the main one
being the ‘Umda, a botanical work written at the end of the 11th century or beginning of the
12th, probably by the agronomist Abu l-Jayr. Tulips are mentioned in this text 500 years
before the first known references to their introduction into Europe, traditionally asserted to be
from the Ottoman Empire to Holland via Austria, always in the 16th century. Thus the route
of these ornamental bulbs in their passage from East to West must be modified.

In: Economic Botany, 63(1), 2009, pp. 60–66. by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A.

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