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Neelakurinji

   
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Neelakurinji grows gregariously in the grasslands of Western and Eastern Ghats at altitudes of 1800 to 2400 metres. When in bloom, hills in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are resplendent with purple blooms of this plant. As can be expected, though the flower is called Neelakurinji in all places, the plant species found in all these places are not identical. While some plants are stated to flower once in 12 years, others have a periodicity anywhere between 1 and 16 years. Scientists are yet to arrive at a complete map of all the species but believe that some of these species are endemic to this region.

Strobilanthes kunthianus is the botanical name given to the species that has a flowering periodicity of 12 years. This species is seen extensively in Kodaikanal and Munnar. However, one is not sure if this is found in other places in Western and Eastern Ghats.

Another example is the species Strobilanthes sessilis. Sessiloides is a variety of this species found in Mullayanagiri, which is part of the Baba Budan Giri Hill Ranges. At 1930 meters, Mullayanagiri is the tallest peak in Karnataka. The photographs included here are of this species. The name of this genus is now Pleocaulus sessiloides (Clarke) Bremekamp. The tubular flowers are blue-purple with an ureolate (slight bulge in the middle) corolla. It has four stamens of which two are longer. The leaves are sessile (stalkless), ovate and rugose-bullate (thick wrinkled and puffed up surface between the veins which are prominent) with crenate (round toothed) margins. Stem, leaves as well as the inflorescence are covered with delicate hairs.

People have reported seeing similar plants flowering annually or in periodicity other than 12 years in other parts of the Western and Eastern Ghats. If we examine these plants, we would know if they belong to either one of these species or any one of the 46 species. Only a systematic study will help us understand them better.

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