Why were tulips so costly? Because Holland, at the time (around 1634) was in the throes of Tulipmania.
Tulips originally came to Europe from the gardens of the Turkish sultans. The name, in fact is derived from the Turkish word for "turban" because that is what people thought the tulip flowers resembled.
They commanded a high price right from the start because of this, and soon became a status symbol. In Holland, wealthy Dutch burghers competed to have the most and the best of this new garden favorite. And then something seemingly wondrous happened. Tulips began to appear in not just solid colors but all manners of stripes and mottling.
The Dutch loved this and the demand rose even higher. Since these new and exciting tulips could not be duplicated from seed, and so had to be increased by simply waiting for the bulb itself to reproduce, the costs for especially beautiful colored tulips went right through the ceiling.
Legend has it that families were willing to accept a single special tulip bulb as a suitable bride's dowry. One bulb, a variety named "Semper Augustus" sold for what would be $2500 in today's market. One single tulip bulb!
throe n. 剧痛，阵痛
tulipomania n. （对种植或获取郁金香的）狂热
Turkish a. 土耳其人的
turban n. 穆斯林的头巾
burgher n. 市民
sultan n. 苏丹（伊斯兰国家最高统治者）
mottling n. 斑纹
dowry n. 嫁妆