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Image by thomas heintz

Bulb full of biodiversity!

Discover biodiversity and monuments of Leiden

Artist and biologist Rafael Martig,in collaboration with Tulpenmanie Leiden,  has painted a ceramic tulip bulb with the aim of drawing attention to the importance of soil biodiversity in tulip cultivation. The bulb can be viewed in the bulb greenhouse of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. In addition to biodiverse elements, Rafael has painted several recognizable monuments and places from Leiden.   


The yellow wagtail

With flowering tulips you often see the yellow wagtail sitting on top of the flowers. They look out for flies. Bulb growers place straw on their bulb fields to protect the bulbs. The yellow wagtails make their nests on this straw and raise their young among the flowers. They hunt insects and use the flowers as a base.


This side of the bulb shows life in and above the ground in healthy soil that has not been treated with pesticides.

Rafael has enlarged and schematically painted the various micro-organisms in the soil. The ATCG stands for the DNA code. In the Tulpenmanie Leiden citizen science project, samples were taken from the soil, after which all the DNA present was isolated and all micro-organisms were mapped in one test, "metagenomics". Read more about this research here. Various flowers can also be seen. By planting not only tulips but also other types of flowers, various insects are attracted, which ensure that, for example, aphids and other harmful organisms do not have a chance to make the tulips sick. The red/white striped tulip is the Semper Augustus, which unleashed the Tulip Mania in 1630 (read more here).


This side of the bulb shows life in and above the soil during traditional tulip cultivation using pesticides.

This part shows soil with diminished biodiversity and the artist has schematically depicted the disappearing microorganisms. The microorganisms in the soil are 'the factory of life', processing organic waste to sustain life above ground, from plants to animals to humans. They regulate the capture and release of carbon and water; they keep pests under control and help decontaminate contaminated land. By using pesticides for years, the microorganisms in the soil and consequently those above the soil disappear. While other vital resources such as water and air are continually recycled and regenerated, soil formation can take decades, even centuries. Furthermore, on this side of the sphere the winter greenhouse of the Hortus Botanicus with one of the planters with tulips from the Tulpenmania Leiden project are shown. 


Iconic buildings and monuments in Leiden are depicted on this part of the mini bulb.

A number of iconic buildings can be seen on this side:

Molen de Valk, a windmill from 1743 . The present stone mill succeeded a wooden mill from 1667. In 1743, the De Valk was built entirely of stone after the city council had given permission for this. The mill is 29 meters high and has 7 floors. The mill owes its name to the fact that it is built on the Valkenburger stronghold. The mill was part of the series of 19 windmills that once stood on the ramparts of Leiden. Molen de Valk is the only one left.

The Morspoort. Of all eight city gates of Leiden, only two remained: the Morspoort and the Zijlpoort. The Morspoort used to serve as the western city gate of the city of Leiden. The name of the Morspoort is derived from a very swampy meadow area just outside the city of Leiden called 'De Morsch'. Via the Morspoort a direct route was possible to the gallows field which used to be a prison. That is why the citizens of Leiden call the Morspoort the Gallows Gate

Pavilion of the Clusius Garden. The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden was built 400 years ago by Carolus Clusius, the first prefect of the Hortus. Since 2009, the garden has been located behind the Academy Building. The pavilion in the middle of the garden has been replicated based on a print from 1610, and the fence around the garden beds with precious flower bulbs from that time has also been reconstructed on the basis of illustrations. 

Artist and biologist, Rafael Martig, explains in this video what can be seen on the ceramic bulb. In addition to the tulips, birds, and micro-organisms, Rafael has painted recognizable, historic places in Leiden. 

The ceramic mini tulip bulb was unveiled on December 14, 2023. Read here everything about this festive day!

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