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Thursday, September 23, 2021

As rare Neelakurinji flowers bloom in Karnataka’s Kodagu after 12 years, heli-taxi firm offers aerial glimpse

The purplish blossoms have covered the hills of Mandalpatti and Kote Betta, drawing tourists from across the state

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Madikeri |
Updated: August 28, 2021 9:25:17 pm
Sightseers who have just started to step out after repeated Covid-19 lockdowns have been visiting Kodagu to see the flowers for the past one week, according to forest officials from Kodagu.(Photo: Karnataka Forest Department)

With the hills of Mandalpatti and Kote Betta flush with the purplish hue of Neelakurinji, whose flowers bloom only once every 12 years, tourists are heading to Karnataka’s Kodagu district to witness the rare phenomenon and a heli-taxi firm has even offered an aerial glimpse of the visual treat.

Sightseers who have just started to step out after repeated Covid-19 lockdowns have been visiting Kodagu to see the flowers for the past one week, according to forest officials from Kodagu.

Locally known as Kurinji, the flowers grow at an altitude of 1,300 to 2,400 metres. (Photo: Karnataka Forest Department)

“Mandalpatti Hills on the Western Ghats, known for its scenic beauty, is now full of tourists from all over Karnataka to see the Neelakurinji or Strobilanthes kunthiana. To my knowledge, it is for the first time this year that we’ve seen these flowers spread fully across both hillocks. Usually, it is only visible in some parts of these hills,” A T Poovaiah, the Madikeri Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) said.

Bengaluru-based heli-taxi firm Thumby Aviation Private Limited has been offering rides to the site of the bloom at a cost of Rs 2,30,000. Speaking to The Indian Express, the firm’s director Govind Nair said, “One trip has been carried out from Yelahanka Air Base in Bengaluru to Kodagu district so far this week under our Nowhere package to see the Neelakurinji flowers.”

Locally known as Kurinji, the “flowers grow at an altitude of 1,300 to 2,400 metres. The shrub is usually 30 to 60 cm high. This kind of mass flowering is known as gregarious flowering, where plants of the same gene pool in a landscape bloom en masse,” Poovaiah said.

Locals say the flowers used to be common in various parts of the district, but have been seen only rarely in the last few decades. “When we were young, Kurinji flowers were common in the district and could be seen on various hills and coffee plantations. Now, since most hillocks have been converted into coffee plantations and the forests destroyed, the flowers are
seldom seen,” said Muthappa, a local resident.

Karnataka forest department officials said the state has around 45 species of Neelakurinji, with different species having been catalogued on different altitudes. Each species blooms at intervals of six, nine, 11 or 12 years. “In Kodagu, they started to bloom over the last one week, so the hillock will be covered with flowers for a few more days,” the DCF said.

Last year, the Neelakurinji had blossomed in Chikkamagaluru district, covering the Baba Bhudanagiri hills completely.

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