If you’ve ever had to purchase flowers before, you know they can be quite expensive, especially if they’re not in season. The more exotic, rarer varieties can sell for prices that only the very well-off or rich can afford. This lead one reader to ask, “What’s the world’s most expensive flower?”
What is the most expensive flower?
In 2005, a group of Chinese scientists working on agricultural research grew an orchid that was purchased at auction by an anonymous buyer for an incredible 1.68 million yuan, or right around $200,000 US dollars. The orchid was the result of eight years of effort and represented a completely new and unique species. Due to the combination of the amount of work put in by the Chinese scientists, the flower’s rarity and being the first (and only) of its kind, it ended up fetching a world record price.
But that might be nothing compared to the Dutch Tulip bubble of the 1600s.
The World’s First Economic Bubble
Tulips first arrived in Amsterdam in 1594. They originally came from Persia and Asia, and the Dutch botanists were quickly enamored with the vibrant and varied colors of the flowers. Big flowering gardens were all the rage at that time, so these lovely new additions became highly sought after. By the 1630s there were professional tulip traders in Holland who found that the demand very much outweighed the supply of bulbs (tulip bulbs can take over a year before they are ready to flower).
Due to the demand, prices skyrocketed, and tulip bulbs were traded around for vast sums. One trade on record illustrates the comparative value of these flowers: Two lasts of wheat (1 ‘last’ is equal to 4,000 lbs), four lasts of rye, four fat oxen, eight fat swine, twelve fat sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four casks of beer, two tons of butter, a complete bed, a suit of clothes, a silver drinking cup… all together valued at 2,500 florins. And it was a traded for just a single Viceroy tulip bulb.
Like the dot-com bubble, the tulip bubble crashed as fast as it started and many ‘investors’ were left holding bulbs suddenly worth one one-hundredth of what they had paid. Still, those Dutch love their tulips. They are now the world’s number one grower and exporter, making tulips an important part of their economy at much more reasonable prices.
Frankel, Mark, “When the Tulip Bubble Burst”,Business Week, April 4, 2000
Garber, Peter M. (1989), “Tulipmania”, Journal of Political Economy 97 (3): 535–560