The Fleeting Kurinji

A poem about a disappearing flower on the slopes of the Nilgiris

Poem by Rebecca Harrington
Edited by Lydia Chain

One petal crept open, and a million joined it,

on the slopes of the Nilgiris — the “blue mountains.”

These peaks are named for the blue-blossomed Kurinji,

India’s most meticulous flowering plant.


For 12 years each lies dormant, bare. Then, like clockwork,

their blooms erupt. For one spring, a floral carpet.

The Muthuras tribes used it to mark the years passed.

How many Kuriniji flowerings old are you?


Kurinji only grow above 6,000 feet.

Living in the Sholas grassland among the clouds,

leopards, tigers and elephants roam within their

branches, keeping them company through the long rest.


The Kurinjimala Sanctuary tries to

defend its 12-square-mile swath of land from harm.

But illegal farms still abound and cattle graze;

growing food trumps protecting the fragile flower.


Tracking each day until a dozen years have passed,

Kurinji blossoms survive through strength in numbers.

So many flowers bud at once they overwhelm —

no animal could ever eat this many seeds.


Yet the past flow’ring may have been the very last.

Habitat destruction could mean no more blue blooms.

No more years to count, no more seeds to save, no more

Kurinji flowering simultaneously.



Featured photo from