K.S. Sudhi

Taxonomic studies to be conducted

It is estimated that there are 46 varieties of kurinji in the south Western Ghats region.

KOCHI: The world of Kurinjis (Strobilanthes) of the south Western Ghats will open up in much more detail soon. The Forest Department is all set to conduct detailed taxonomic studies on these plants.

After the expansive blooming of Neelakurinjis in 2006, nearly 20 other varieties recently bloomed together at the Eravikulam National Park and adjoining areas.

The department has completed a preliminary study on a few of them. It is estimated that there are 46 varieties in the south Western Ghats region.

The flowering interval of Neelakurinji is 12 years. The government had decided to form the Kurinjimala Sanctuary covering about 32 sq.km of the core habitat of the plant species during the last flowering season.

The department plans to promote research on Kurinji plants, says K.P. Ouseph, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).

Kurinji varieties that flowered recently have been identified by researchers as neoasper, lawsonii, andersonii, foliosis, grazilus and so on, says M.P. Sanjayan, Forester.

The flowering rotation of a large number of Kurinji plants remains unknown. It is believed that the flowering rotation of lawsonii is 24 years. But neoasper, luridus and andersonii flower once in a decade and pulniensis in seven years.

Much is not known about varieties other than Neelakurinji. A detailed taxonomic study of them needs to be conducted, says A.P. Sunil Babu, Wildlife Warden of the Eravikulam National Park.

Most Kurunjis are found at an altitude of above 5000 ft as part of the shola grassland ecosystem. While Neelakurunji is found on the grasslands, others are mostly found inside, or on the fringes of, the sholas.

Foliosis has an affinity for areas near streams. Grazilus, locally known as Marakurunji, is the tallest variety and can grow up to a height of four metres. This variety flowers once in a decade.

Only 10 per cent of the seeds of the variety germinate and live on and it requires massive flowering and bearing of seeds for the species to survive, Mr. Sanjayan says.

Most of the Kurunjis have flowers of lilac shades. But pulniensis bears white flowers, he says.