Morphometrics and phylogeny of the wild tulip (Tulipa sylvestris)

Herbarium specimen of Tulipa sylvestris

Tulip taxonomy is complex and different treatments do not agree on the delimitation of species and subspecies. In this thesis you will focus on the taxonomy of Tulipa sylvestris, a small yellow tulip commonly called the ‘wild tulip’ or bostulp in Dutch. This species was introduced to northern Europe from the Mediterranean region in the sixteenth century and became widely naturalized. 


For more information contact:

Anastasia Stefanaki (Naturalis) or
Freek Bakker (WUR)

Period and duration

Expected to start around February 2022 (ca. 6 months in total).

Credits: 24– 36 ECTS.

Study and level



The taxonomy of Tulipa sylvestris is perplexed due to morphological diversity, polyploidy and naturalization of cultivated plants. Three subspecies are tentatively accepted, but this distinction is not satisfactory: subsp. australis is a diploid native in the Mediterranean up to central Asia, subsp. sylvestris is a tetraploid naturalized in northern Europe, and subsp. primulina is a diploid endemic to Algeria and Morocco.

& approach

Wild tulips in the Netherlands
If you sign up quickly, you can do fieldwork in beautiful Dutch gardens.

The taxonomy and subspecific classification of Tulipa sylvestris will be assessed with traditional and geometric morphometrics based on floral and vegetative characters and by constructing a phylogeny of T. sylvestris and allied species. For the morphometry, images of herbarium specimens will be used and preferably also fresh material that will be collected in Dutch gardens during spring. For the phylogenetic reconstruction, you will compile sequences from GenBank and BOLD and compare outcomes with a recently reconstructed phylogeny based on genomic repeat profiling.

Used skills: Morphometrics, statistical analysis, phylogenetics.


Interested in the taxonomy of tulips? We are looking for an MSc student in Biology or Plant Sciences who will disentangle the taxonomy of the wild tulip. The project will be carried out in the Biosystematics group at Wageningen University. 

The ideal candidate has a background in bioinformatics, R and R studio, molecular systematics and botany. Recommended courses are Comparative Biology and Systematics (BIS-30306, WUR) or Genomic Architecture (UL). The student will write a thesis on the topic and contribute to the larger research project on the origin and taxonomy of Tulipa sylvestris by Dr. Anastasia Stefanaki (WUR/Naturalis).