Genomic evidence of the history and taxonomy of the wild tulip

Tulipa sylvestris in Nederland

Tulipa sylvestris is a small yellow-flowered tulip commonly called the wild tulip (bostulp in Dutch). Despite its name, this species is not native in N. Europe, but was introduced during the 16th century from the Mediterranean. The taxonomy of the wild tulip is complicated due to polyploidy and naturalization of cultivated plants. A genome analysis may shed light on the history of introduction of the wild tulip and its complex taxonomic status.


Taxonomy of tulips is challenging. The latest inclusion of numerous species in T. sylvestris has resulted to a morphologically variable and widely distributed species, extending from Mediterranean to Central Asia. Three subspecies are provisionally accepted (sylvestris, australis, primulina), but this distinction is potentially problematic as morphologically intermediate plants occur. Subsp. sylvestris is generally accepted as the tetraploid form of subsp. australis. Triploid plants are also known.

During the 16th century, T. sylvestris was introduced, possibly from France or Italy, to NW Europe and became widely naturalized. In the Netherlands, it is mostly found in old gardens and estates, as a characteristic example of the so-called ‘stinzenplanten’.


Repeatome analysis with skim-sequencing using Repeat Explorer.


Anastasia Stefanaki


Period and duration

6-9 months (MSc)

Aim and research questions

This MSc project aims to explore at a genomic level the history of introduction of Tulipa sylvestris to NW Europe and to re-examine its infraspecific classification. The questions to be answered are: What is the geographical origin of T. sylvestris plants that have been introduced to NW European gardens? Is the current taxonomic circumscription of T. sylvestris supported by genomic evidence? 

Internship specification

Interested in history and taxonomy of tulips? We are looking for an MSc student in Biology or Plant Sciences who will disentangle the introduction history and taxonomy of the wild tulip using a promising genomic approach. The project is expected to start around June 2021. Amount of ECTS to be discussed. The ideal candidate has background in bioinformatics, molecular systematics and botany. Recommended courses are Genomic Architecture (UL) or Comparative Biology and Systematics (BIS-30306, WUR). The student will write a thesis on the topic and contribute to the research of Dr. Anastasia Stefanaki and Prof. Tinde van Andel (WUR/Naturalis).