The Dutch certainly have a thing about tulips. Not only was there a supposed economic bubble where future contracts on tulips resulted in a huge increase in the price of the flower, but there is also the myth of the black tulip.
The Quest for the Black Tulip
The Black Tulip was written about in an 1850 book titled La Tulipe Noire (literally, “The Black Tulip”) by Alexander Dumas. Horticulturists were enamored by the idea of a black tulip. The tulip named “La Tulipe Noire” appeared in 1891 and another one called “Queen of the Night” appeared in 1955. However, none were really black – all of these were very dark purple. In 1979, Geert Hageman crossed many “black tulip” strains and is said to have created the world’s darkest tulip at the time, known as the “Paul Scherer.”
A Half Truth
Unfortunately, even “Paul Scherer” is not actually a black tulip. It is merely a very dark purple. Hageman got it very close to black, with some faint purple overtones. So, when you hear of black tulips, know that they are just an extremely dark purple.
Geert Hageman and many others went to a lot of trouble to attempt to create a black tulip. The flower has much to do with Dutch history, including the Dutch Tulip Bubble – a large speculative bubble where tulip contracts rose to extreme highs before crashing. Based on the price of one unique tulip, one could make or lose a fortune overnight.