It is the time of the year when the monsoon season is coming to an end in Goa. It is also the best time in seven years to see the Karvi (Carvia callosa or Strobilanthes callosa) shrubs in full bloom.
Last year, it was a trailer of things to come. Right now, it is the whole film in 70mm or HD projection on the big screen!
Karvi blooms on the hillsides and plateaus of the Sahayadri range of the Western Ghats only once every eight years. If you want to see it, see it now!
Otherwise, you will have to wait for another seven years to see the bloom in 2030, along with the bloom of Neelkurinji (Strobilanthus kunthiana) at Eravikulam National Park near Munnar in Kerala’s tea estates area.
OCCURRENCE & USES
Strobilanthes genus is native to Madagascar, India and Myanmar with 350 species. The dazzling purple, white and green leaved Strobilanthes dyerianus that we grow as a leaf ornamental originated in Myanmar (Indo-Burma).
The herbaceous Strobilanthes sessilis is what we call the ‘Blue Abolim’.
The stems are used for thatch and for making beaver dams. The flowers help produce a special kind of honey. Goa’s Suprajit Raikar has been at it last year in Chorla and is likely to do it in Nirankal this year.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, till last year, Karvi plants did not exist in Goa outside of the border areas of Chorla Ghat in Thane-Dongurlim village panchayat area on the Goa-Karanataka border. That was shattered!
A columnist in another newspaper wrote about a few plants flowering at Sonshi in the mining belt of Sattari and Nirankal in Ponda taluka. I knew some persons in Nirankal and began making enquiries to confirm if it was actually true.
A visit to Nirankal and a young man with a BBA in Agriculture degree, Rajat Prabhu, spoke to me about the Carao plant, that he sometimes referred to as Karo with great familiarity.
The fact that names for Karvi exist in Portuguese and Konkani languages in conversations at Nirankal clearly points to the existence of these flowering plants before Liberation in 1961.
Ponda taluka, or Antruz mahal, was de jure a part of the Sondekar Raja kingdom but de facto, a Portuguese colonial protectorate from 1763-64 to 1961. Now, it is all one in India.
When asked if the plants had flowered earlier in Nirankal, Rajat informed me that it flowers and the whole hill is different shades of blue. It was not the case last year.
There was only sporadic flowering. What was news to me, and to many others, was mundane to him.
“We do not think much about these flowers on the hill and in the cashew plantations, but we do not cut them unless they have flowered,” he shared.
Actually, the plant dies after flowering and before the cashew collection begins in the February-May period. That is environmental consciousness, though it is subconsciously done. The routine is to clear the undergrowth to make collection of fallen cashew apples and nuts easier.
Karvi flowering is a sight to behold. What is even better is to see it closer to where one lives. Take advantage of the various treks being organized to see the Karvi plant or take your own vehicle and go there!
The author is a former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan