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It is Kurinji time in South India

The long 12-year wait is over. The Kurinji has started painting the shola grasslands in the Western Ghats in pale purple color. The individual Kurinji flower, mauve in color, has no fragrance and neither is it a delight to the eyes. But people are flocking to the major hill stations in South India to watch this ordinary shrub flower. The reason – it shows up only once in 12 years.

Neelakurinji, as it is locally known, blooms once in 12 years. The plant lives for a year and then disappears and returns after 12 years. The flower and the plant have no known medicinal properties. The flowering cycle was first recorded in 1838 but the tribals of the area knew about it much before.

The tourists are attracted to the mass flowering of Kurinji which transforms the hillsides into a mauve colored carpet. Most of the tourists are not aware that they are watching an endangered plant. Kurinji is mainly found in the shola grasslands of the Western Ghats at an altitude above 1500 meter. It is particularly found in the Nilgiris, the High Ranges of Munnar and the Palani Hills.

The shola grassland ecosystem in the Western Ghats is threatened due to various reasons. The flowering of the Kurinji this time is being used to promote awareness among public for the need to protect the shola grasslands.

For those interested in watching Kurinji, the best places are the popular hill stations of Ooty, Kodaikanal and Munnar. Kanthalloor, Kadavari, Kambakkal and Poovar are also ideal places to watch the 12-year flowering cycle. The Eravikulam National Park in Munnar and Mukkuruthy National Park in Ooty offers ideal view of the Neelakurinji.