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The genus Tulipa is of great economic importance. Tulips have attracted a great deal of attention from the Dutch tulip mania of February 1637 up until the commercial export and tourism of today. Although tulips are closely associated in many peoples' minds with The Netherlands, various tulip species occur naturally in temperate regions across southern Europe and central Asia (from the southern Balkans to Siberia and western China), North Africa, and the Middle East. The center of diversity of the genus is in the Central Asian Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains and the steppes of Kazakhstan. Some Tulipa species have established themselves elsewhere, including T. sylvestris in Britain, The Netherlands, the United States, and Sweden and the so-called Neotulipae, e.g. T. marjoletii, T. didieri, and T. rubidusa, in western Europe. (Veldkamp and Zonneveld 2012 and references therein)
The exact number of Tulipa species recognized varies among authorities, but ranges between 45 and 150 (Zonneveld 2009 and references therein; Eker and Babaç 2010). The taxonomy of Tulipa is particularly challenging in part due to their long history of cultivation, hybridization, and selection (Straley and Utech 2002).
Tulips are popular spring-flowering garden plants. Millions of tulip bulbs are sold annually and thousands of cultivars are registered (Zonneveld 2009). The common garden tulip (T. gesneriana) and a number of other species (T. bakeri, T. clusiana, T. fosteriana, T. kaufmanniana), as well as a vast array of complex hybrid cultivars, are commonly planted for their spring flowers. Viral infection of tulips can result in odd colored streaks in the flowers. In the early 1600s, these variant flowers, called “broken” tulips, became prized in the Netherlands, widely sought, and worth large sums of money. The ensuing “tulipomania” lead to widespread trading, speculation, and then a sudden market collapse in 1637. (Straley and Utech 2002)