Neelakurinji, the flower that turns the mountains blue
Kurinji flowersNeelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) is a shrub that used to grow abundantly in the shola grasslands of Western Ghats in India. The Nilgiris, which literally means the blue mountains, got its name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms gregariously once in 12 years.

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.

Neelakurinji is the best known of a genus whose members have flowering cycles ranging from one to 16 years. It belongs to the family of Acanthaceae. The genus has more than 500 species, of which at least 56 occur in India. Besides the Western Ghats, Neelakurinji is seen in the Shevroys in the Eastern Ghats. It occurs at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 metres.

Kurinji in bloomThe plant is usually 30 to 60 cms high on the hills. They can, however, grow well beyond 180 cm under congenial conditions at lower elevations. Plants that bloom at long intervals like kurinji are called plietesials.

Neelakurinji (also spelled neelakkurinji) have been referred in the past by names such as Strobilanthes kunthianum, Nilgirianthus kunthianus, Strobilanthus nilgirianthus (nilgirianthes) and Phlebophyllum kunthianum. Also, நீலக்குறிஞ்சி or குறிஞ்சி மலர் in Tamil and നീലകുറിഞ്ഞി in Malayalam.
Strobilanthes sessilis flowers every year.