The Neelakurinji flowers that blossom once in many years have turned the green patches of hill stations in Chikkamagaluru into purple-blue, thus attracting hundreds of visitors. For over 20 days, thousands of people have visited Seethalayyana Giri, Mullayyanagiri, and Bababudangiri in the Chandradrona Range of the hills.
The narrow roads of the hill station were flooded with vehicles on the weekend. Last Sunday, by 10 a.m., more than 200 vehicles had crossed the check-post at Kaimara near Chikkamagaluru. By afternoon, the parking yards were full and traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.
“The traffic on the weekend towards the hill stations is high normally. Due to the neelakurinji flowers, the number of visitors has multiplied. Visitors are coming from faraway places,” said Prasanna, a local taxi driver.
Neelakurinji, a shrub, is found in shola forests of the Western Ghats. Taxonomists, who visited the site, identified it as Strobilanthes sessilis. The one normally found in Munnar is Strobilanthes kunthiana.
R. Parimala, retired professor of Botany and taxonomist from Dharwad, was in the hill station last week to study the flowers. “I have travelled wherever neelakurinji flowers blossom in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. For the first time I have seen the flowers in such a vast expanse in Karnataka,” she said.
The shrub is endemic to the Western Ghats. There are many varieties of the plant and a few varieties are seen in Karnataka. “It is a great opportunity to see the flowers that blossom once in 12 years. The area should be guarded and the visitors should be educated about its special features,” Dr. Parimala said.
The flowers have attracted hundreds of amateur photographers too. Shivashankar Banagar, a noted photographer from Hosapete, said he was disappointed as he saw some people taking plants home. “They don’t understand the plants don’t grow in their garden,” he said.