Red Tulips for Parkinson’s


The red tulip is the worldwide symbol of Parkinson’s disease. Source:

Did you know that the red tulip is the international symbol of Parkinson’s disease? This devastating disease of the nervous system affects about 7 to 10 million people around the world, including nearly 1 million in the US, 100,000 in Canada and Australia and 145,000 in the United Kingdom, and the numbers are rising. Experts predict that the number of people with Parkinson’s disease will double by 2042.

It was on April 11, 2005 that the red tulip was launched as the international symbol of Parkinson’s disease during the 9th World Parkinson’s Disease Day Conference in Luxembourg. The red tulip, which rises from the bare earth to bloom gloriously each spring, was chosen as a symbol of hope for Parkinson’s sufferers.

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Triumph tulip ‘Doctor James Parkinson’. Source: mijikam,

There is actually a tulip named ‘Doctor James Parkinson’. It’s a red Triumph tulip with a white margin named for the English doctor who first described the disease in 1817 and was launched by 1981 its hybridizer, J.W.S. Van der Wereld, himself suffering from Parkinson’s disease. However, the award-winning ‘Doctor James Parkinson’ tulip is rarely available and, at any rate, any red tulip will do as the symbol of the disease. There is no need to plant a specific variety of red tulip.

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The Jean-Paul L’Allier Garden in Quebec City with its thousands of red tulips. Source: Parkinson région Québec Chaudière-Appalaches

You can plant red tulips to support a friend or relative who suffers from the disease, to honor someone who has died of the side effects of the illness or simply to show moral support to people suffering from the disease. In some regions, it’s now common to see red tulips grown in front of hospitals and hospices that care for Parkinson’s patients. If that’s not the case where you live, that’s perhaps a tradition it would be well worth starting! Our local Parkinson’s Society (Parkinson Région Québec Chaudière-Appalaches) began such a campaign in 2014 and this year we’ll be planting bulbs at seven sites in the Quebec City region during our annual Tulip Bulb Planting Bee in October.

Planting red tulips as a sign of compassion for the illness is a great idea, but the various Parkinson Societies of the world need more than floral support. Be generous, and when your tulips come into bloom, perhaps in April, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, consider making a donation to your local Parkinson Society.

Show your support for Parkinson Society by filling your flower beds this autumn with beautiful red tulips … and make sure everyone knows why!

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