mountain tulip ‘Black Base’

Tulipa willsoniana ‘Black Base’ (mountain tulip). This Liliaceae is native to Turkmenistan, where it grows in mountainous habitats up to an elevation of 3,000 m (10,000 ft.). The mountain tulip has a diminutive stature of only 6-8 in. tall, but what the plant lacks in height it makes up in floral display. As with most other tulips, T. wilsoniana grows best in full-sun and rich, organic soils. However, being a species tulip from mountainous regions the mountain tulip will grow well in poorer or slightly rocky soils. Another adaptation from its harsh mountainous habitat is the great drought tolerance displayed by T. wilsoniana.

The mountain tulip produces grey-blue waxy lanceolate, grass-like leaves that are often folded on themselves and display an oscillating edge, all characteristics that harken back to this species’ alpine background. Tulipa wilsoniana produces large, up to 5 cm (2 in.) across, bright red flowers in March and April. Flowers are presented much more prominently than the leaves, which is, again, an adaptation to alpine environments. In the cultivar ‘Black Base’, large and significant black markings are present on the inner bases of each petal.

Lurie Garden’s spring bulbs provide great sources of pollen for early-season pollen-foraging pollinators. Tulipa wilsoniana, along with a number of other species tulips at the Garden, all provide for pollinator servicing long before other plants in the Garden begin to flower. The long period of pollinator serving is a hallmark of Lurie Garden’s focus on combining native and non-native plants in a hyper-urban garden space. The Garden’s bulb design was borne from a collaboration between Jacqueline van der Kloet and Piet Oudolf.

Botanical Name Tulipa wilsoniana ‘Black Base’
Common Name mountain tulip ‘Black Base’
Family Liliaceae
USDA Zone 5 to 8
Light Requirement Full Sun
Season(s) of interest Spring
Height and Spread 4-6in x 3in (10-15cm x 7cm)
Flower Color Red and Black
Attracts Wildlife Pollinators
Additional Information Native range: N. Iraq to Iran
Location in Lurie Garden
Northeast Light Plate, Southeast Light Plate, East Dark Plate