Recently in the month of August there were large floods which managed to wash away the southern state of Kerala. This was a rare event, because this flood managed to coincide with an out of the ordinary botanical phenomenon which occurs just once every twelve years.
Within the past 2 months, a shrub, also known as Strobilanthes kunthianu, and known locally as the neelakurinji flower, has bloomed rapidly among the high hills of Munnar. These flowers expand upon the mountain and show a rich array of blue and lilac colored flowers. These shrubs may grow as high as 2 to 10 feet. These flowers are unknown to many due to them only reproducing once within their life-spans. It then takes the seed 12 years to eventually sprout. It is rare to see these, and even people within the Munnar region may only see them once in a life-time.
Visitors to these regions seem to have been enthralled by these flowers for hundreds of years. There are early British records which mention these specific flowers within their bindings. The folklore behind these flowers have even inspired communities to name specific regions after these flora. The Nilgiri Hills, which are found in Tamil Nadu, was named after these flowers due to a rather intense recorded blooming within the region. Today, it is even harder to catch a glimpse of these flowers. They have rather strict habitat requirements and due to modern industrialization of these regions, their population has been dwindling.
The Bombay Natural History Society noted in 1935 that:
“It is noted by all who have seen two or three flowerings, that at each successive period, the area over which it appears becomes less and less. Every year more land in these hills is taken up and cleared for ten estates, or for fruit and vegetable culture, or for building. Many a hillside that was once blue with Strobilanthes is green with the little flat topped tea bushes, and Strobilanthes is ruthlessly exterminated as pest.” – Robinson M E
Despite efforts by both local activists and the government, the population of these flowers have been dwindling. Although sincere attempts have been made to try conserve these flowers throughout the recent world, these flowers may not exist forever. Harmed not only by humans, natural disasters have plagued these flowers as well. The last sighting of these flowers was in 2006.