100,000 tulips headed to San Francisco — and they're free for the picking

San Francisco will get a pop of color and a taste of Dutch culture next week with the deposit of 100,000 tulips in Union Square.

March 1 is American Tulip Day, a celebration of American tulips grown from Dutch-raised bulbs. To celebrate, Dutch flower bulb trader Royal Anthos, iBulb.org and the Consulate of General of San Francisco are transporting thousands of multicolor tulips to the bustling tourist center.

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Visitors are invited to pick their own bunch of tulips to take home between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the three-and-a-half-hour stretch that the garden is open to the public. Access to the garden — and the tulips — is free.

The Netherlands has a long history of tulip cultivation and exportation. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, the tulip — Latin for “flower that looks like a turban” — arrived in Holland during the 16th century. Frequently depicted in the artwork and literature of the Dutch Golden Age, the tulip went on to become one of the most prized objects of the period. Between 1634 and 1637, a speculative frenzy for tulips led to a period known as “tulip mania.” Prizes for bulbs skyrocketed, triggering one of the country’s first economic bubbles.

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The Dutch went on to become the world’s premier tulip exporters, with the U.S. its most avid customer. Each year, the Netherlands ships around 450 million tulip bulbs to the country, which are planted, grown and sold stateside.

American Tulip Day, Union Square, March 2, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., americantulipday.com. 

Read Michelle Robertson’s latest stories and send her news tips at mrobertson@sfchronicle.com.

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/100-000-american-tulip-day-union-square-dutch-13643565.php.

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