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PILGRIMS and TULIPS: What’s the connection?

     Mayflower descendants keep their eyes open for bits of information that reveal the lives of Pilgrim and Native people of the 1600s. That’s what happened to me when I came across a flower and its ties to Leiden, Netherlands and the Pilgrims.


     An unusual tulip is found from Iran into the Himalayas. It’s unusual because it’s one of a few species that is red and white.

     In 1802 the tulip, Tulipa clusiana, was named for Charles de l’Ecluse (1526-1609) – also known as Carolus Clusius. He was a renowned Flemish botanist who acquired the bulbs from a Florentine grower.

     When de l’Eculse moved to Leiden to accept a position as professor at the University of Leiden in 1593, he introduced the bulbs to northern Europe. This particular tulip first flowered in his garden in April 1607. Associated with the university is the famous botanic garden, Hortus Botanicus, which l’Eculse developed.

     The Pilgrims in Leiden resided several blocks from the botanic gardens and would have seen and enjoyed this particular tulip.


     Growing these dainty red and white tulips today can be a visual reminder of the time the Pilgrims spent in South Holland before leaving for the New World and be an interesting topic of conversation. You can order bulbs from Dutch Grown. They grow their tulips/bulbs in Leiden and ship out of their American business site.


    And of course, if you would like to know other fascinating things the Pilgrims encountered  in 1620, be sure to check out my unit study: The Mayflower at Cape Cod – Stories, activities, and research that connect 1620 with life today. Although written for students grades 6-12, adults are just as fascinated with the information!

REBECCA LOCKLEAR is an educational writer and author. Visit