Today is the birthday of the Flemish botanist and founder of the Botanical Garden at Leiden, Charles de l'Écluse ("day-lay-clues").
Charles was an important 16th-century horticulturalist who, like many scientists of his time, translated his name into Latin, and was also known as Carolus Clusius.
Clusius is remembered as the botanist who introduced tulips to Holland.
Around 1560, Clusius wrote that the first tulips appeared in Antwerp & Mechelen ("MEK-lin"). A merchant had gotten a hold of some, and, assuming they were a new kind of onion, he ate a few of the bulbs and then planted the rest. To his surprise, the onions grew into the beautiful blooms we know today as tulips.
In 1593, after a trip to Turkey, Clusius finally obtained some tulips for himself from the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman. Clusius planted them at his botanical garden at the University of Leiden in Holland. Hoping to study their medicinal properties, he was stunned when neighbors crept his garden, stole the bulbs, sold them for ridiculous sums, and launched the Dutch tulip trade. Within decades, Leiden's tulips gave rise to the Tulipmania that still fascinates garden historians to this day.
Today, the tulip has become a national icon of Holland. And, one of the best places to see tulips is at the Keukenhof("GO-KEN-hof") in Lisse ("LISS-ah"), and the best time is generally about halfway through April.
Not surprisingly, Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips. And, Clusius also left his mark on many flowering bulbs. He named the popular Portuguese squill, Scilla peruviana, after a ship christened 'Peru' and not Peru the country. And, Clusius planted the first Crown Imperial. One of his last major written works was a flora of Spain and Portugal that featured 233 botanical woodcuts. It was published in 1576.
The tropical genus Clusia was named by Carl Linnaeus to honor Charles de l'Écluse.