The tulip has had 'more adventures than any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare invent', writes Anna Pavord in a new introduction to her best-selling history of the tulip, reissued in a 20th anniversary edition.
It is, she says, 'the sexiest, the most capricious, the most various, subtle, powerful and enthralling flower that has ever grown on earth'.
Although tulips are firmly associated with Holland they are actually native to central Asia, their natural habitat stretching eastwards from Turkey to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
It was in the mid-16th century that European travellers first brought back news of the brilliant red flowers they had seen growing in the wild.
The tulip's popularity spread rapidly throughout France and the Low Countries, finally reaching England in the 1560s.