THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The legendary kurinji flower has bloomed again in Idukki, this time on the ‘shola’ grasslands at Thalakkulam near the Mathikettan Shola National Park.
The kurinji plant (Strobilanthes kunthiana) follows a flowering cycle of 12 years. However, plants at specific locations may complete their cycles in different years. The season usually lasts months.
The last major flowering of kurinji was in 2006 at different locations from the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu to Munnar in Kerala. The bloom had then covered several high-elevation knolls in the Eravikulam National Park and vicinity like a carpet.
Compared to that, the flowering this year is less spectacular. It covers only a small area. The lower portion of the hill, close to the Kochi-Madurai highway is in private hands. The rest is forest land. The area is not far from the Anayirankal reservoir and is only three kilometres from Pooppara along the national highway.
The height of kurinji plants is different from place to place. The size of the flowers also varies. The flowers seen at Thalakkulam are smaller and interspersed with wild grass. Studies will be required to determine whether they can be classified as a different species of the genus Strobilanthes (family of Acanthaceae). More than 50 Strobilanthes species occur in India and these have flowering cycles ranging from one to 16 years. Some of these have bloomed in the Eravikulam National Park this year in smaller numbers. However, Strobilanthes kunthiana is the most popular among the species.
Many tribal lore and customs are associated with kurinji, which is believed to be the flower of Lord Muruga. Legend has it that Muruga married a tribal girl Valli with a garland of kurinji flowers. The black-stalked kurinji finds mention in the Sanghom literature and several poems had been written about that. The Kurinjimala Sanctuary near Munnar was formed in 2006 to protect the shola grasslands and kurinji.