Munnar is blessed with a
rich variety of flora and fauna but the most well known among them is
The Neelakurinji or Kurinji is a unique shrub species that blooms in
Munnar and the hills across Western Ghats. Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes
kunthiana) belongs to the family of Acanthaceae. The species name
Kunthiana has been derived from the River Kunthi. The genus has around 300
species, of which at least 46 occur in India. Besides the Western Ghats,
it can also be found in Eastern Ghats.
On the hills, the plant
usually grow 30 to 60 cm in height, but under more favorable conditions
they can grow well beyond 180 cms. It can be found only in high altitudes
between 1,600 metres and 2,600 m and what makes it so special, apart from
its beauty, is that it blooms only once in 12 years. The mass flowering
and subsequent death of the Kurinji is the subject of hill folklore.
Although Neelakurinji has flowering cycles ranging from one to 16 years,
it has been flowering every 12 years since 1800. What triggers the massive
flowering every 12 years is not known. Plants that bloom at long intervals
like this is called plietesials. But stray flowerings do occur in between.
The flowering season comes between August and November and peak in late
September and October although some varieties exhibit little variation. It
looks light blue in the early stage of blooming and has purplish blue
colour when aged.
Neela means blue in Malayalam language and Kurinji is the local name of
the flower. For those in Munnar, the blooming of Kurinji flower is a
reminder that their lives have gone past another twelve years and for
those from far off places it maybe once in a life time opportunity to
witness the Kurinji flowers covering the hills of Munnar in a blanket of
The Nilgiris, which means blue mountains, got its name from the blue
flowers of Neelakurinji. Once they used to cover the entire Nilgiris like
a carpet during its flowering season. However, now plantations and
dwellings occupy much of their habitat. The departments of Tourism,
Forests and Wildlife have initiated a campaign for the preservation of
Neelakurinji and its natural habitat.
During the last blooming in 2006, the biggest Neelakurinji flowering was
at the Eravikulam National Park in Munnar. It also bloomed gregariously at
several places around Munnar and in Kodaikanal. The next mass flowering is
expected to take place in 2018.