Idukki district in Kerala is witnessing yet another kurinji bloom. Neelakurinji plants have flowered gregariously on hills near Santhanpara, about 33 km from Munnar.
The plants had flowered massively in the Eravikulam National Park and on large areas near Munnar in 2006. The flowering now is limited to grasslands on a few hills, about four kilometres from Santhanpara. Last year, the bloom was seen on a hill at Pooppara, not far from Santhanpara.
The neelakurinji plant (Strobilanthes Kunthiana) flowers once in 12 years. However, plants on different locations may complete their flowering cycles in different years. The flowering at Santhanpara is considered to be one such case.
The bush is usually 30 to 60 cm in height. However, under congenial conditions, the plant may grow up to two metres. The plants at Santhanpara are of middle range with large number of branches. Each branch carries dozens of buds, blooming over several weeks. The flowers are smaller compared to those seen at Eravikulam National Park in 2006. Whether there is any subtle differences between these plants are yet to be studied. Strobilanthes kunthiana is endemic to peninsular India (Western Ghats and Shevroys in the Eastern Ghats). It is not seen on the Western Ghats south of Idukki district in Kerala. The genus Strobilanthes has about 500 species of which more than 50 occur in India. They have flowering cycles ranging from one to sixteen years.
However, detailed studies on several of these species are yet to be done. Last year, a large number of Strobilanthes species had bloomed at the Eravikulam National Park and nearby forests, in a rare conjunction of different flowering cycles completing the cycles in the same year.
The Forest Department has posted a guard at Santhanpara to save the flowers from vandalism. However, part of the land, surrounded by shoal forests, is in private hands. Access is easy as the hills are close to the Munnar Thekkady road.