18 August 2008

Neelakurinji, the flower of the blue mountains

Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) is a shrub that used to grow abundantly in the shola grasslands of Western Ghats in India. The Nilgiris, which literally means the blue mountains, got its name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms gregariously once in 12 years.
Neelakurinji is the best known of a genus that has flowering cycles ranging from one to 16 years. There has been record of its flowering every 12 years since 1826. The next flowering is expected to place in September 2006. Stray flowerings do occur in between. What triggers the massive flowering every 12 years is not known.
Neelakurinji belongs to the family of Acanthaceae. The genus has more than 500 species, of which about 50 occur in India. Besides the Western Ghats, Neelakurinji is seen in the Shevroys in the Eastern Ghats. It occurs at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 metres. Flowering takes places between April and December, peaking towards September.


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