Tulipa, commonly called tulip, is a genus of about 150 species of bulbous flowering plants in the family Liliaceae. The native range of the species includes southern Europe, north Africa, and Asia from Anatolia and Iran in the west to northeast of China. The centre of diversity of the genus is in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains and the steppes of Kazakhstan. A number of species and many hybrid cultivars are grown in gardens, used as pot plants or as fresh cut flowers. Most of the cultivated species, subspecies and cultivars of tulip are derived from Tulipa gesneriana.
The species are perennials from bulbs, the tunicate bulbs often produced on the ends of stolons and covered with glabrous to variously hairy papery coverings. The species include short low-growing plants to tall upright plants, growing from 10 to 70 centimeters (4–27 in) tall. They can even grow in the cold and snowy winter. Plants typically have 2 to 6 leaves, with some species having up to 12 leaves. The cauline foliage is strap-shaped, waxy-coated, usually light to medium green and alternately arranged. The blades are somewhat fleshy and linear to oblong in shape. The large flowers are produced on scapes or subscapose stems normally lacking bracts. The stems have no leaves to a few leaves, with large species having some leaves and smaller species have none. Typically species have one flower per stem but a few species have up to four flowers. The colorful and attractive cup shaped flowers have three petals and three sepals, which are most often termed tepals because they are nearly identical. The six petaloid tepals are often marked near the bases with darker markings. The flowers have six basifixed, distinct stamens with filaments shorter than the tepals and the stigmas are districtly 3-lobed. The ovaries are superior with three chambers. The 3 angled fruits are leathery textured capsules, ellipsoid to subglobose in shape, containing numerous flat disc-shaped seeds in two rows per locule.
Although tulips are associated with Holland, both the flower and its name originated in the Ottoman Empire. The tulip, or lale (from Persian لاله, lâleh) as it is called in Turkey, is a flower indigenous to Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and other parts of Central Asia. After being described in a letter by the Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the 16th century, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, who was also a great floral enthusiast, tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century; the word tulip, which earlier in English appeared in such forms as tulipa or tulipant, entered the language by way of French tulipe and its obsolete form tulipan or by way of Modern Latin tulīpa, from Ottoman Turkish tülbend, “muslin, gauze”. (The English word turban, first recorded in English in the 16th century, can also be traced to Ottoman Turkish tülbend.)