Q: Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) blooms once every12 years in South India. While Munnar is being aggressively promoted for tourism surrounding the flower, it certainly must blossom at other places such as the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu (Ooty, Kotagiri, Coonoor, etc.) and Kodaikanal. Is it also found in adjoining places in Kerala like Wayanad, Silent Valley, Vythiri, etc? At Devikulam, there is a tourist bungalow. How can I book it?

Marco Says: To put things into context for our readers—Neelakurinji is a flower with forty unique varieties that blooms in vibrant shades of blue. ‘Neela’ mean blue, while Kurinji is the flower’s local name. It will be possible to witness this rare phenomenon in the hills of Munnar from July to October 2018. Expect to find breathtaking views of flower-embellished meadows. As for your question—yes, the flower is found at plenty of other places. Its shrub grows in the shola forests (or temperate montane forests found scattered across South India), especially in the Nilgiri hills, and the Palani hills of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In fact, it isn’t even restricted to the Western Ghats, but also found in some eastern regions.

As for the places you mention, there is, of course, good news. Neelakurinji was predicted to blossom in Kodaikanal this May, so you should be able to spot it right away. Ooty is another hotspot, while Kotagiri experienced heavy thickets in the previous bloom. However, that time saw incessant tourist activity on the meadows, which heavily affected the blushes, so there many not be as much activity now.

Among the Kerala destinations, the Silent Valley National Park has a strong association with the flower—the Kunthi river, from which the flower borrows its species name, flows through it. It was named so because the bush was first described in the vicinity of this river. In Wayanad, however, not much has been seen. Still, due to its proximity with places such as Munnar and the Eravikulam National Park (which is also known for its bloom), there is always the chance.

Finally, the Devikulum tourist bungalow you seem to refer to is the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s Yathri Nivas (From 800 per night; 200 Devikulam Circular Road, Moolakadai; Ph: +486-5264200). Call them up.