Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Botany of Desire:  Tulips

 Tulip Biology:

1. Tulips are:
    a.  annual        b. perennial

2.  Tulips are:
    a.  evergreen   b. deciduous

3. Tulips are:
    a.  herbs          b. grass           c.  shrub          d.  vine            e.  tree

4. The underground portion of a tulip is a:
    a.  bulb            b.  corm           c.  tuber           d.  rhizome

5. The underground portion of tulips are most like:
    a.  onions         b.  lilies            c.  potato         d.  ginger         e.  turnip

6. Tulips come �true from seed.�
    a.  False        b.  True

7.  Tulips are an example of a:
    a.  spring flowering bulb
    b.  summer flowering bulb
    c.  flowering annual
    d.  flowering perennial

8.  Tulips have distinctive petals and sepals.
    a.  false               b.  true

9.  Tulips have a scent.
    a.  false               b. true

10. To where are tulips native? ______________________

11. Describe the �original� or native tulip.

12. What is the likely pollinator of tulips?

13. In what regard can a bee be considered a �flying penis?�

14. Identify three mechanisms by which plants avoid self-pollination.

15.  What is a virus?

16.  What is a �broken� tulip?  Describe.

17.  Explain how a tulip �breaks.�  

18.  What is botanical �thievery?�

Flowers & Society

  1. Pollan argues that most individuals, with perhaps the exception of little boys, those with clinical depression and certain cultures, love flowers.  Do you agree that this is a predilection all people share? 
  1. Pollan argues that natural selection may have favored a love of flowers in our ancestors.  What is Pollan�s explanation for how/why this may have evolved?   Or in other words, what is the potential evolutionary value for people liking flowers?
  1. Pollan argues that some African cultures have not developed a love of flowers and cites two reasons � economy and ecology.  Explain each of these ideas.  Do you agree?  How could you test this hypothesis?
  2. What is horticultural therapy?


  1. What is beauty?  Pollan cites three criteria for beauty � what are they and do you agree? 
  2. What is the �evolutionary advantage� of appreciating beauty?
  3. Pollan suggests that humans like flower gardens because they provide the �stirrings of sex.�  Do you agree?
  4. Why do humans find flowers beautiful?
  5. What is symmetry and why might that be related to beauty?

Plant/Human Coevolution?

  1. Do you agree with Pollan when he argues that plants have evolved expressly to �catch my eye?�
  1. Although domestication is typically considered something people have done to a plant, Pollan argues that domestication is a strategy by which plants have exploited us and our desires to their own interests.  Give an example of what he means.  Do you agree?


  1. Where did tulipomania occur?
  2. During what years did tulipomania occur?
  3. What was tulipomania?
  4. Can you think of any modern examples that might fall into the category of �tulipomania?�
  5. Pollan suggests that the Dutch were primed for tulipomania because of their geography � they sought to beautify their low, monotonous swampy country with plants.  As a result, gardening and botany became very important.  Do you agree?  Is this hypothesis testable?
  6. Why was the tulip a good flower for the Dutch �temperament?�



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Last updated:  03/04/2005 � Copyright  by SG Saupe