Dutch people have a down right obsession with tulips. It’s like we have a tulip-addiction. Which we did in the 1600s. Meanwhile, tulips aren’t even Dutch! Welcome to the one and only blog specifically about the Dutch obsession with tulips.

Tulips are flowers (obviously). They grow from a bulb. Usually only one stem, so also one flower, can grow from said bulb, but there are variations: sometimes up to four stems can grow from one bulb. You can find tulips in all shapes and forms, and in all colours. Except one: the black tulip… But we’ll discuss that tulip later. When you cut a tulip and put in a vase, it will not wither away for about a week and it will grow towards the light.Tulips are a sign of spring and therefore, when you’re here during spring and you like flowers, you should go to the Keukenhof (a park, filled with all sorts of flowers, but mainly tulips) or go to a flowerfield, where, sometimes, you can cut your own bouquet.

Like I said, tulips are NOT from the Netherlands originally. They’re actually from Turkey. But how did they end up in the Netherlands? The first record of tulips are from, you guessed it, Turkey. Apparently, tenth-century Turkey was the perfect place for this (we think) hybrid of wild flowers to grow. Though we are unsure who brought the tulips to Western Europe, Carolus Clusius is thought to be largely responsible for the spread of the tulip bulb. Eventually he became the director of the botanical wing of the university of Leiden in 1593. In the same year, he planted the tulip in both his private and the university garden. Therefore, 1594 is considered the year in which tulips grew in the Netherlands for the very first time. Little did he know that this would eventually lead to the Tulip Mania…

The Tulip Mania is due to a number of factors. First of all, the Netherlands was waging a war of independence against their Spanish occupants. Yet, because of this newly acquired independence, trade was flourishing in the Netherlands. Companies such as the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Companie, United East India Company) could make profits up to 400 % by selling the goods from East-India. This made even the poorest man rich. Combine that with the fact that the tulip was new and exciting, unlike any other flower in the Netherlands so far. Tulips thus became a luxury product, something to show off your wealth with. Because the flowers were so new in 1634, demand for them was big. The merchants who had some in store, could sell them for a lot of money. People thought that the price of these bulbs could only grow. Thus the demand grew and so did the prices. New species were created, often named after the creator. People made fortunes overnight. At the peak of the price, just one tulip bulb, a Semper Augustus,  was equal to the price of a canal house ( a canal house was worth €67,500 at the time). There were contests  to create the much wanted black tulip, a hard species to create because black barely appears in flowers by nature. Because people did not wonder whether this tulip really was equal in worth to a canal house, the Tulip Mania is therefore known as the first economic soap bubble. But in 1637, the prices suddenly dropped, because people realised that they could just grow tulips for free in their backyard. The soap bubble burst. However, merchants still had big stocks, which they had bought for the high prices. They couldn’t sell them anymore and therefore made big losses.

Even though we are not as obsessed with tulips anymore, it’s one of our biggest exports and many tourist come to the Netherlands to see the tulips. When you think of the Netherlands, you think of cheese, herring and tulips. Moreover, we Dutch ‘’invented’’ the economic soap bubble (but whether we should be proud of that…). If you’re here in spring, you should definitely see some of the famous tulips!

Eline van der Peet