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Sunday, 17 November 2013

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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 Ravindra

Strobilanthes Sexennies

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 Lanka.

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.

Totupola Kande

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 again.

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, he said.

Strobilanthes Dianadra Strobilanthes Hookeri Strobilanthes Pulcherrima Strobilanthes Viscosa

Strobilanthes Calycina

Strobilanthes Dianadra

 

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