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.
Once they used to cover the entire Nilgiris like a carpet during its flowering season. However, now plantations and dwellings occupy much of their habitat.
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 of Strobilanthes kunthiana every 12 years in specific areas since 1826. The next major flowering is expected to place in September 2018 in places such as Eravikulam National Park. However, flowering of other communities of kurinji plants completing 12 years will take place earlier in other areas-- one is expected in 2014 near Munnar. 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.
Note: Neelakurinji has been referred in the past by names such as Nilgrianthes kunthianus and Phlebophyllum kunthianum.
For more details: Book on kurinji
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