‘Neelakurinji’ The Flower That Blooms Once in 12 Years

By Tuhin Sajjad

Neelakurinji flowers which bloom once every twelve years after the deadly deluge of the rainy season. The species of flower is mostly found in the southern part of India, across the hilly regions of the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Neelakurinji is a shrub that has sweet blue-colored flowers that attracts tourists and visitors. This year these flowers are seen blooming in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka at Chikkamagaluru district, the Bababudanagiri ranges have been covered with these flowers. It also blooms in the range of Nilgiri Hills across the three states. The Kallippara hills of Kerala and the Mullayanagiri peak also become a hotbed of this kind of strange flowers. It is also seen in the Ranganathaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve in the Chamarajanagara district of Karnataka.

In the month of September and October, Neelakurinji flowers started blooming attracting lakhs of tourists to behold and enjoy the beauty of nature. The flower has been named after Nilgiri hills which means blue mountain.

In India, this kind of shrub is found in the shola forest of the Western Ghats. Scientifically they belong to the kingdom “Plantae”, family “Acanthaceae”, and genus “Strobilanthes” and this species is known as Strobilanthes Kunthiana. Kurinji or Neelakurinji is their Malayalam nomenclature.

There are 250 genera of Strobilanthes across the world and 46 of them are found in India. Neelakurinji is a Plietesials shrub that grows for a number of years. It is having a blooming cycle of twelve years. It usually blooms once in a yug! but the blooming cycle may vary from one to sixteen years concerning various genera.

This type of shrub grows at an altitude of 1300-2400 meter and usually is 30-60 cm in height and maybe beyond 180 cm in some cases. They grow, bloom and produce seeds and mast and again grow after a long period. This Strobilanthes Kunthiana was first scientifically described by a German botanist and natural philosopher Christian Gott-fried Daniel Nees Von Esenbeck in the 19th century.

The Flowers spread like a carpet over the Annamalai hills, Cardamom hills, Nilgiri hills, Palani hills, Kudremukh hills, Bababudangiri hills, and also over the Sonduru hills of South India.

These regions of south India have become hotspots for rich biodiversity in addition to this flower. Experts of kurinji flowers have views that number of species in India increases to 100 from 46. The common genera of these Flowers found in India are Strobilanthes Kunthiana, Strobilanthes Anamallaica, Strobilanthes Heyneanus, Strobilanthes Pulnyensis, Strobilanthes Neoasper, and Strobilanthes Cuspidatus. Interestingly Strobilanthes Cuspidatus blooms once in every seven years and then dies. These seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and again dies.