Every 12 years, the Nilgiri (literally meaning blue mountain) hills of southern India turn blue as the flowers that give the range its name are in full bloom. Kurinji or Neelkurinji is a shrub that is found in the shola or montane forests of Western Ghats and blossom once in every 12 years. Some sub species of the flowering plant however do not follow this cycle and might bloom once in 7 years. It is this rare bloom that was spotted recently in the lower altitudes of the Western Ghats.

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Image of A.K Pradeep with the flower. Via The Hindu

A K Pradeep, a naturalist from Kottayam in Kerala, visited the eastern sloped of the Western Ghats in Kerala and found the rare species Strobilanthes cuspidatus flowering. This plant is a cousin of the more abundant Strobilanthes kunthiana which is spread on the slopes of the mountains and blooms once every 12 years transforming the hills into a carpet of blue.

Pradeep says that Strobilanthes cuspidatus was found at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, where the weather was slightly warmer than in the upper slopes.

“They are found in altitudes where there is hot air circulating. They seem to require a very particular climate to grow well.”

He adds that the place where the 3 plants of this species was found is very near the main road and agricultural land frequented by people. Without knowing about the rarity of these plants, locals could easily trample upon or destroy them. He therefore hopes the forest department would collect seeds and grow the plants in a safer location.

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The last mass flowering of the neelakurinji was recorded in 2006 and it is believed that the next big bloom will occur in 2018. In the meantime, conservationists are hoping that the hills and the habitat of this beautiful and unique plant is saved from encroachment, habitat loss and from the growth of invasive species.

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About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of indiasendangered.com. Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

2 thoughts on “Rare Blue Flower Blooms In Nilgiri Hills

  1. Kurinji flower has so many mentions in Tamil literature and is a favoured blossom of Lord Subrahmanya. Glad to see the blooms, even if they are not the original ones.

    1. Yes, I have read this too, that the flower is part of both Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s literary writings. I have also heard of the Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil nadu who use the blossoming of the flowers as a reference to calculate their age. I hope next year when all the flowers in full bloom, I can see that spectacle. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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