Why Neelakurinji flowers only once in 12 years?

Among plants, there are annuals and perennials. Annual plants complete their life cycle in one year. They grow from the seed, bloom, produce seeds and die in one growing season. Perennials live for more than two years and usually flower every year and set seeds.

Some perennials flower only once in their lifetime, set seeds and die. The next generation of the plants are established from these seeds and the cycle is repeated. Such plants are known as monocarpic, opposed to polycarpic plants that flower and set seeds many times during its lifetime. Monocarpic plants flower only after attaining maturity. The time taken by different species may differ in this respect.

Bamboos are monocarpic plants taking more than 40 years to mature and flower. Another characteristic shown by such plants is that these will flower gregariously in a single season. This happens in the case of bamboos and Kurinjis. The term 'plietesials' is used to refer to such plants. The time taken to mature varies in different species of Kurinjis. So different species of Kurinjis have different intervals of flowering. Neelakurinji matures in 12 years time and flowers gregariously every 12 years.

Prof. E. Kunhikrishnan

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