Horton Plains, a colourful carpet of Nelu
Horton Plains is a tourist attraction and thousands of local and
foreign tourists visit it every day. Today it offers a unique and rare
opportunity for nature lovers.
Park Warden Piyal
Nelu flowers which bloom once in 12-14 years are now in full bloom
and the most parts of the Horton Plains are covered with a white, pink
and purple carpet of Nelu flowers.
A framed picture of the Nelu flower with a brief description is
displayed at the Pattipola railway station. The picture taken in 2001 by
Yomal Perera of Hill Safari, gives a brief history of the life cycle of
the plant and its blooming season and has correctly predicted that the
next blooming season would be between September-December, 2013.
The flower has been in bloom from the last week of September and may
continue for another two weeks. There is limited time to experience this
wonder of nature.
As Yomal Perera had explained, Thomas Farr, the builder of Farr Inn
in the Horton Plains (the inn is no longer there) had found that the
Nelu or Strobilanthes plants flowered in 12-year cycles, in 1881, 1893,
1905 and when he left Sri Lanka in 1912 he had predicted that it would
next flower without fail in 1917 and 12-year cycles thereafter.
The flower bloomed in 2001 and if you miss this opportunity this year
you will have to wait till 2024.
According to botanists, Nelu also called Nilu or Nilla, is a plant of
the Strobilanthes family. There are around 130 Strobilanthes varieties
in the world mainly in the Asia region. There are 31 species of
Strobilanthes in Sri Lanka and of them 26 varieties are endemic to Sri
In the Horton Plains you can find eight varieties and seven of them
are endemic to the Horton Plains. Strobilanthes Pulcherrima,
Strobilanthes Viscosa, Strobilanthes Dianadra, Strobilanthes Hookeri,
Strobilanthes Sexennies, Strobilanthes Calycina, Strobilanthes Nockii
and Strobilanthes Anecps varieties are found in the Horton Plains.
According to the Park Warden of the Horton Plains National Park,
Piyal Ravindra, six Strobilanthes varieties are now in bloom. Horton
Plains National Park is famous for beautiful flowers, most of it endemic
to Sri Lanka. This blooming of Nelu flowers is important because the
flower blooms in 12-14 year cycles, Ravindra said.
Flowers can be seen along the Pattipola and Ohiya entrances of the
park, in Thotupola Kanda and around the Baker's Fall. The Totupola Kanda
area is fully covered with a white, pink and purple carpet of flowers.
Ravindra said that the biodiversity of the Horton plain has changed
with the flowers. There are hundreds of thousands of bees and wasps
collecting nectar and you can hear their hum.
The colour of the plain and the density of insects has changed and
after the end of the flowering season the Horton Plain will change
According to Ravindra, the reason for the 12-year long flowering
cycle of the Strobilanthes plant is that after the flowers fade the tree
dies spreading billions of seeds making the ground for a new generation
of plants. The time taken by a Strobilanthes plant to grow up and bear
flowers is 12-14 years.
Ravindra invites nature lovers to visit the park and enjoy the beauty
of the flowers and researchers to use this rare occasion to collect
scientific information. More research has to be done on this plant and
this is a rare opportunity for botanists and if you collect a sample
this year, to collect three samples you have to wait another 24 years,