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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - As the end of April approaches, Dutch tulip farmers prepare for "topping", when they run cutting machines through the fields across the north and west of the country, lopping off the colorful flower heads and leaving the stalks and plants to wither.
Throughout the month, the tulip fields are in full bloom and tourists flock to attractions such as the Keukenhof flower garden in The Hague to see the year's designs and spectacular new strains.
To the un-initiated, the "topping" that follows may look like senseless destruction.
In fact, it's all part of the tulip's growing cycle, as the plant then diverts its energy to the still-living bulb underground, which will bloom again.
The reinvigorated bulbs are harvested in mid-summer and sold to growers for planting in the autumn.
Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Hugh Lawson