Coimbatore

Wonder flower in bloom again

A.K. Pradeep, who collects data of Kurinji flowers, taking a GPS reading of Strobilanthes cuspidatus, another species of Kurinji, which is now in bloom at the lower Niligiris on Sunday.

A.K. Pradeep, who collects data of Kurinji flowers, taking a GPS reading of Strobilanthes cuspidatus, another species of Kurinji, which is now in bloom at the lower Niligiris on Sunday.  

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A rare species of Kurinji, known as Strobilanthes cuspidatus, has begun flowering in the lower slopes of the Nilgiris. However, as the rare plant is located near a major road and in a patch of agricultural land, naturalists and botanists have called for its protection, as this particular species could soon be in danger of going extinct.

A K Pradeep, a naturalist from Kottayam in Kerala, who has done surveys for the Kerala Forest Department on Strobilanthes species, visited the spot said that this particular species was usually found in lower altitudes in the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats.

The plant in the Nilgirs was found at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, where the weather was slightly warmer than in the upper slopes. “They are found in altitudes where there is hot air circulating. They seem to require a very particular climate to grow well,” Mr. Pradeep said.

“The three plants are found near agricultural land and near the road, and so are at risk of being cut down by people who are unaware of their uniqueness, ” Mr. Pradeep warned, calling on the forest department to collect seeds from the plants and grow them at a suitable location where they can be better protected.

The plants bloom once every seven years and then die. Their seeds then sprout and continue the cycle.

V Ramsundar, a retired joint director of horticulture, said that steps should be taken to preserve these rare plants through various methods such as ‘in-situ’, ‘ex-situ’, ‘in-vitro’ and ‘cryo preservation’ techniques. A DNA bank of Strobilanthes species should also be established, he said. Mr. Ramsundar said that habitat loss, combined with the growth of invasive species were the main reasons plants like the Strobilanthes cuspidatus were disappearing.

The earliest record of the plant by James Sykes Gamble sometime during the late 19th century. Records of it blooming every year were maintained till the middle of the 20th century.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2019 4:01:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/Wonder-flower-in-bloom-again/article16381500.ece

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