The Extraordinary World of offers a rare glimpse of species tulips growing wild on their home turf, the barren steppes and rugged peaks of some of the world’s most difficult terrain.  

Co-created by tulip experts at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and of Bridgeport, Conn., profiles a group of five Dutch bulb enthusiasts who embarked on a two-decade quest to find and photograph little-known tulips in the wild. With typical Dutch understatement, the five friends refer to these treks to some of the world’s least hospitable places as spring holidays!

At the website’s heart is a slideshow of 41 spectacular images that serves as an extraordinary window on a remote world “where the wild tulips are.” An interactive map links each image to the location where it was shot. Dutch bulb expert and expedition participant Eric Breed provides background, site notes, botanical IDs and on-the-scene anecdotes.

Despite their genteel garden image, tulips are native to harsh landscapes in hard-to-reach corners of the world. They’re often found clinging to barren mountain ledges exposed to wind, cold and drought. The contrast of harsh habitat and colorful tulips makes for some breathtaking photographs. Most were shot in the wilds of the Himalayan, Caucasus, Tien Shan, Elburz and Pamir mountain ranges of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Tulips in the Wild Web Page

There’s the white and yellow Tulipa regelii, an exquisite wild tulip with ground-hugging leaves weirdly ribbed like a radiator, the better to thrive under the growing conditions of the Chu-Ili Mountains (800m/2,600ft) of Kazakhstan where spring days can be searing hot and nights below freezing. Deep red Tulipa lanata is seen clinging to a rock crevice in the rugged Gissar Mountains (1,300m/4,300ft) of Uzbekistan where “its large flowers wave like scarlet handkerchiefs on the cliffs.” Tulipa behmiana is shown growing in dry soil near Lake Balkhash (1,000m/3,300ft) in southeastern Kazakhastan. Its hard-skinned bulbs were discovered to have an odd wool-like fur lining thought to protect the bulbs from freezing underground in winter.

While tulips in native habitats are protected under international law and cannot be wild-collected, there are commercially-grown Dutch species tulips available to home gardeners. For commercially-cultivated tulips with wild or near-wild pedigree, has a fine selection.