“I shall find the black tulip,” said Cornelius to himself whilst detaching the suckers. I shall obtain the hundred thousand guilders offered by the Society.” (La Noire Tulipe by Alexandre Dumas)
The fact that black, like blue, is commonplace in our contemporary lives, but rare in the natural world is a beguiling one. Black diamonds, black orchids, and black roses have that particular mystique and cachet. What we perceive as black in flowers is purple that verges on the darker end of the spectrum close to black. Late to flower, usually in May, black tulips seem a dark afterthought to the earlier tulips in softer and warmer hues, like the arrival of the evil fairy Maleficient at Sleeping Beauty’s christening pageant. They are difficult to place in the garden, deadening plantings if not carefully paired with zingier colors. When cut and admired closer in a vase, black tulips are a sensual treat magnified by the inky blue stamens and white edges revealed after the petals come apart.