Busbequius Be Thanks. Crocus vernus at Haren, The Netherlands

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'; translated: Spring Crocus 'Pickwick' ( 'Pickwick' denotes the hybrid name, but I have no idea why it is called thus; I can hardly imagine a connection either to Dickens or to the syndrome of the same name). Anyway, this crocus belongs to the Iridaceae, and the name is derived from the Latin Crocatus back via the Greek form to Hebrew, Persian and Arabic forms such as 'kurkam', all meaning something like 'saffron', refering to the yellow stamens.

The crocus is said to have been introduced to Europe through the efforts of Ogier Ghiselain de Busbecq (Augerius Gislenius Busbequius; 1520/1521-1592), the illegitimate son of a nobleman from the northern French town of - yes! - Bousbecque. A smart young man who had studied at the famed Leuven university, he entered public and diplomatic service under the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand I. For many years the Empire's ambassador at 'The Sublime Port', otherwise known as Istanbul, the seat of the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent, he wrote a series of letters to a friend in Flanders. These letters outlined not only politics but also all kinds of anthropological, historical, linguistic,biological and botanist discoveries which Augerius made in his travels throughout Turkey. The modern publisher of the letters and Busbecq's biographer lives in Haren, where the Hortus is that gave life to the pictured exemplar. He named his eldest son after his hero.

Busbecq sent bulbs of the crocus to Holland, among others to his friend Carolus Clusius (1526-1594) who, after having established a Hortus in Vienna around 1573, had now found hospitality in Leiden at the Hortus Academicus. The crocus thrived under his care and soon spread throughout western Europe. Actually, Clusius is more famous for his cultivation and scientific study of the tulip (also imported from Turkey), which led to the so-called Tulip Craze (Tulpimania) which caused stock market values for tulips to rise to unprecedented levels. They then suddenly fell, losing enormous sums of money for their owners.

The Haren Hortus goes back on the univeristy Hortus of Groningen, which was established in 1626 (twelve years after the founding of that university) by Hendrick Munting (botantist and apothecary; 1583-1658). It was moved to Haren in 1967 and it is the largest botanical garden in the Netherlands.

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Taken on February 23, 2008