Tulip with a Break

Tulip with a Break
Originally uploaded by anselm23.

This tulip, photographed in Portsmouth, NH, is white. However, a series of flame-like red markings cover the petals on the left side. These red markings are called a break in the language of tulips.

Breaks today are considered a sign of a virus-infected tulip, which must be destroyed. However, in the 1600s when tulips became popular in Holland, breaks were highly popular, particularly light breaks on dark tulips, or dark breaks on light tulips.

You can learn about this and other interesting facts from the book The Botany of Desire (by Michael Pollan), an examination of the ways in which humans breed plants… for beauty, for sweetness, for reliability, and yes, for ecstasy. Each chapter covers a specific plant: apples, corn, tulips, potatoes and marijuana.

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