Who’s bothered by closed gates?

Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) flowers every twelve years. In 2018 we set off for Munnar in the middle of a terrible monsoon to see its flowering. The slopes where they grow were battered by rain, and although we did see a few flowering bushes, we never got the magnificent views of purple-covered mountains that the media was showing. I think all that footage came from the previous flowering in 2006. In the evening we retreated to a tea estate and the next day we walked around the nearest village to admire feral plants.

Kerala is an amazing place in the monsoon. Every garden runs uncontrollably wild. Bushes and vines cannot be kept inside closed gates and orderly gardens; they spill into roads and the countryside. The yellow flower above is certainly a garden flower (can someone help me with its name?) but it was growing in a jungle of bushes along the road outside the purple gate.

Any gate which was shut could no longer be opened because of the growth around and over it. A good thing that some of the gates were merely ornamental, standing free of fences. You could just go around it if you wanted. We kept to the meandering and narrow. It was a Sunday, and most people were at the bazaar or church. Very few were at home to wave at us as we strolled through the village.

Blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica)

On a previous visit to Munnar I’d noticed that the blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica) has become a pest, over-running trees and taking over forests. In this village it had competition, but there were still many of its spectacular flowers to be seen. The pistil projects quite a way from the disk of its petals, as you can gauge from the focus in this photo.

Scarlet morning glory (Ipomoea hederifolia)

Its main competitor seemed to be the scarlet morning glory (Ipomoea hederifolia), another import from South America or the Caribbean. It is hard to be more precise about the original range of most morning glories because they spread very easily as human activity opens up dense forests. The long slender goblets of nectar in both of these trumpet shaped flowers evolved to take advantage of the long beaks of hummingbirds. I wonder what their pollinators are in this far land. Clearly there must be some. How would they spread so far and wide otherwise?

Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Another of the plants which I cannot name is the one you see above. The dark green elliptical leaves with pink dots and the two-lipped flowers with the very long pistil are familiar. I’ve seen them in garden even as a child, and I think I have a memory of these plants in my mother’s garden. But I’ve completely forgotten what they are called. Can someone help? (Thanks Deb for identifying it as the polka dot plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Bengal clock vine (Thunbergia grandiflora)

Another plant which runs wild easily is the Bengal clock vine (Thunbergia grandiflora). The name comes from the fact that the creeper winds clockwise around any support. I was curious why this property would enter into its name. Apparently 92% of vines from around the world twine anti-clockwise, so the sense in which this plant winds does make it very special. You seldom get such a clear explanation of names of plants.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

10 comments

  1. Even though invasive, those morning glories are so beautiful!. In Bangalore I see a wildflower of the same red colour, but much smaller. The purple / blue morning glory is very common everywhere. I don’t know much about flowers but from google it seems that the second flower is called Polka dot plant, or Freckle face plant. The yellow one is more difficult, seems similar to Helianthus decapetalus (thinleaf sunflower) or Venegasia carpesioides (canyon sunflower) or some variety of Arnica.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for spending the time. Unfortunately, anything called decapetalus is ruled out. The size of the flower and the shape of the leaves seems to rule out Venegasia. But you are right about the polka dot plant: the leaves and flowers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing the beautiful plants and flowers. The gates are nice, too. I can see why they can’t be opened. I found it interesting about the clockwise vine. I never paid much attention to the way vines wind around things. I’ll have to look now.

    Liked by 1 person

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