It’s a visual extravaganza that can be seen only once in 12 years. From July till October this year, the Neelakurinji (strobilanthes kunthianus) flower will bloom at Munnar in Kerala, offering a stunning spectacle and a chance for botanists to study the unique lifecycle of this plant.
“Neela means blue and kurinji is the local name for the flower. Neelakurinji will bloom en masse and the hills will be covered in a dreamy shade of blue,” said Dr P G Divakar, former joint director of the Botanical Survey of India, Pune.
“The plant is not rare, but it blooms only once in 12 years… when the mountains take on a blue colour,” he told The Indian Express.
Kurinji is a shrub that is found in the Shola forests of the Western Ghats, said Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forests, wildlife, Nagpur. It grows at altitudes between 1,300 and 2,400 metres. Usually 1 to 2 feet-high, the plant can grow well beyond six feet under congenial conditions.
This flower covers the Nilgiri hills and Palani hills like a carpet during its flowering season, said Dr Satish Pande, nature conservator and founder of Ela Foundation.
According to experts, Neelakurinji is also seen at Anaimalai Hills in Idukki district, Agali Hills in Palakkad and Sandur Hills of Bellary district. After 2006, it will start flowering this year, creating a blue carpet all over the hills, said George Mathachen, chief conservator of forests, wildlife, Kottayam.
The flowering was documented in 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2006, said Limaye.
Tour planners and adventure clubs, meanwhile, are busy planning treks to these hills when the Neelakurinji blooms.
Lakshmi R, warden at Munnar wildlife division, said a large number of tourists had turned up in 2006 to witness the phenomenon. In Munnar, Eravikulam National Park is the most sought-after destination because the park offers a chance to see Nilgiri mountains and Neelakurinji up close.
“We do expect a huge influx of tourists from across the country. The park management has taken up several activities on a priority basis to accommodate them, to ensure a hassle-free and eco-friendly visit,” she said.