Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Flowering Plants of Kerala

             Kerala with good rains and tropical climate is ideal for flowering plants to grow and profusely bloom. Orchids, Anthurium and Roses stand in front of the flowering plant category and some less prominent ones but more enchanting plants those are grown all over Kerala.

Aambal or Water-lily

Scientific Name : Nymphaea nouchali

Common Name : Aambal or Water-lily

Family                : Nymphaeaceae

      The plant  is known by many names like water lily, star-lotus, Nymphaea stellataetc. It is an aquatic plant with stem submerged in the ground and long petiole holding flat round leaves above water level. Water-lily flowers are brightly colored from red to blue; many petalled and float over water surface. Hindu myths have a prominent place for lotus flower and Lord Vishnu is supposed to be physically associated to lotus flower and all temples use lotus for rituals.  


Arali, Nerium plant, Dog-bane, South-sea rose, Adalpha 

Scientific Name : Nerium indicum

Common Name  : Arali, Nerium plant, Dog-bane, South-sea rose, Adalpha  

Family                 : Apocyanaceae

      The plant is a popular shrub of Kerala garden grown for their extremely beautiful flowers. They grow as herbs, shrubs, trees and even as climbers. Their leaves are simple and alternate and flowers in beautiful inflorescence. Production of profuse sap is a specialty of the members of this family. This sap though poisonous (causes nausea and brain-damage if injested) is of much medicinal value (used for the treatment of scabies).


Arumasam, Krishna kireedam or Pagoda plant

Scientific Name : Clerodentron paniculatum

Common Name  : Arumasam, Krishna kireedam or Pagoda plant

Family                 : Verbenaceae

      The plant is a shrub that grows mostly in the wild but capable of excelling any garden-grown plant for its beautiful terminal inflorescence that lasts about six months. Orange-red- bell shaped flowers open row by row in the terminal cluster. Leaves are simple and dark green. The name attributed to it; ‘Krishna kireedam means the crown of lord Krishna; as the inflorescence is so shaped; it is a pity that this plant is not given the adequate importance it deserves.


Ashokam, Galasoka, Anganapriya or Ashoka tree

Scientific Name : Saraca ashoca

Common Name  : Ashokam, Galasoka, Anganapriya or Ashoka tree      

Family                 : Caesalpiniacea

      The plant is a holy tree for Indians; leaves flowers etc are extensively used in the preparations of Ayurvedic medicins. Ashoka plant bears beautiful scarlet colored flowers on all seasons and is widely grown in front of Indian houses. Ashoka gives dark shades in hot seasons for rest and recoup of the members of the family and hence called ‘Angana-priya’ (darling of the front-yard).


Chempakam or Joy-perfume tree

Scientific Name : Michelia chempaca 

Common Name  : Chempakam or Joy-perfume tree       

Family                 : Magnoliaceae

      The flowers are cup shaped and fleshy; as a primitive feature petals and sepals undistinguished (these parts are called tepals); flowers highly fragrant hence used as room fresheners; perfumes are extracted from its flowers. Indian ladies prefer to wear these flowers in hair and gents carry one in their pocket for the enchanting and long lasting perfume of this special flower.


Chemparuthi or Rose-mallow or sorrel

Scientific Name : Hibiscus rosasinensis

Common Name  : Chemparuthi or Rose-mallow or sorrel 

Family                 : Malvaceae 

      The plant is a widely cultivated garden plant that bears long stalked single auxiliary (that arises from the axis of the leaves) flowers. A hibiscus flower is a typical one with sepals, calyx and petals and a long stalk formed of the fusion of male stamen bearing stalks that protects the long tube from the female part. Leaves are simple alternate dark green with toothed ridges. Plants are either herbs or shrubs and even as trees. At present in this group has gained much popularity due to a variety of colors and shapes being produced by way of biotechnology.


Kashithetti, Savam-nari or Madagascar periwinkle

Scientific Name : Catharanthus roseus (Vinca rosea)

Common Name  : Kashithetti, Savam-nari or Madagascar periwinkle

Family                 : Apocynaceae 

      It is an herb that bears white or pink flowers on all seasons. Leaves are small, simple and green; fruits paired follicles (2 to 4 cm long). Periwinkle contains alkaloids of medicinal values and cultivated in large scale.


Kadaladi, Mexican creeper, Rosa De Montana, Queen’s wreath or Coral vine

Scientific Name : Antigonon leptopus   

Common Name  : Kadaladi, Mexican creeper, Rosa De Montana, Queen’s wreath or Coral vine

Family                 : Polygonaceae

      The plant is a tendril-climber that grows wild it is invasive and troublesome. Its profuse flowers that grow in beautiful inflorescences are capable to make it a garden plant blush. Its flexible stem is used to make baskets by the tribal people.


Kanakambaram, Abuli or fire-cracker plant

Scientific Name : Crossandra infundibuliformis  

Common Name  : Kanakambaram, Abuli or fire-cracker plant

Family                 : Acanthaceae or Ruellia 

      The plant is a very popular flowering plant as its brightly colored flowers (blue to golden yellow) are used by women to adorn their hair. This plant is a shrub with simple oval leaves and its ripe fruits bearing pods burst when come in to contact with water; hence a favorite game for rural children and gained it the name fire-cracker plant.


Kanikkonna or golden-shower tree is a shrub

Scientific Name: Cassia fistula

Common Name: Kanikkonna or golden-shower tree is a shrub

Family: Fabaceae

      The plant is the State of Kerala’s official flower, as the name denotes its flowers are golden-yellow and grown in long pendent inflorescence. The ‘golden shower tree’ produces flowers early and considered as a clarion-call of the arrival of Vishu or Vaishakh a festival of flowers (golden flowers of this plant is used to adorn the image of Lord Krishna on the day of Vishu and shown to children as the first sight of the day for Vishu). A fully blown golden shower tree is a treat to the eye of the beholder and the fallen petals on the ground gives it the name ‘golden-shower’ tree.


Kongini or bendhi or Pot-marigold plant

Scientific Name : Calendula officianalis   

Common Name  : Kongini or bendhi or Pot-marigold plant

Family                 : Austeraceae

      The plant is a weak stemmed annual herb with compound dark green leaves; it is widely grown for its aromatic and beautiful flowers (inflorescence with outer layer of petals forming the colorful part); aromatic compounds and dyes extracted from flowers. Marigold flowers are worn by women on auspicious occasions like marriage and celebrations.


Kulamariyan, Madhumalti or Rangoon or Chinese creeper

Scientific Name : Quisqualis indica

Common Name  : Kulamariyan, Madhumalti or Rangoon or Chinese creeper

Family                 : Combretaceae

      The plant is an invasive, spiny creeper that grows wild and spread quick covering the whole area by producing roots and fresh spouts from creeping stem. Its inflorescences are pendent, flowers five petalled, rich in honey with a tubular stalks; appear white when freshly blown and turns red by passing of the day. Leaves of this plant are used as anti-worm potion. This plant has some medicinal uses and its stem is used for making baskets by tribal people.


Mandaram or Dwarf white bauhinia

Scientific Name : Bauhinia acuminata 

Common Name  : Mandaram or Dwarf white bauhinia

Family                 : Fabaceae

      It is a garden grown plant that grow only up two meters in height (certain varieties grow as trees bearing blue flowers and often grown on street-sides). Generally dwarf bauhinias bear white shiny flowers on all seasons; flowers are with five petals; leaves camel-foot shaped (hence it is known as camel-foot plant also) and broad, fruits are pods (15 cm in length and 1.5 cm broad; bear 6 to 10 seeds.


Mukkutti or life-plant

Scientific Name : Biophytum sensitivum  

Common Name : Mukkutti or life-plant

Family               : Oxalidaceae

      A short herb with pinnate leaves (eight to seventeen in number) that radiates from the stem, flowers yellow; five petalled long stalked. Biophytum plant has many names like Aleluya in French, nilakurunji in Tamil, Lejjalu in Gujarathi etc. It collapses when stirred (hence the Hindi name Lajjalu meaning shy) it regains shape afterwards the commotion. Mukkutti is of high medicinal value and widely used in Ayurveda.


Mulla or Jasmine

Scientific Name : Jasminum grandiflorum

Common Name  : Mulla or Jasmine

Family                 : Oleaceae 

      This is one of the most popular flowers for its enchanting fragrance; flowers are white, five petalled, with tubular stalk; leaves generally simple and dark-green. About 200 species exist in this group. Jasminum sambac has many petals (called chendu-mulla meaning bouquet jasmine. Jasmine is a favorite flower of Indian ladies and is widely cultivated for flowers from which oleoresins are extracted.


Nalumani or Four O clock plant

Scientific Name : Mirabilis jalapa

Common Name  : Nalumani or Four O clock plant

Family                 : Nyctagenacea 

      This is a herb that grows on a bulb like underground stem (rhizome). It is widely grown for the beautiful bell-like flowers that appear on all seasons, the colorful part is the calyx (outer layer of petals) that is fused to form the tube. Seeds are black with wrinkled surface. This herb blooms exactly at 4 o clock gaining the name Nalumani meaning 4 O Clock in Malayalam.


Nandiarvattom or Crepe jasmine or Carnation of India

Scientific Name : Tabeamaemontana diverticata 

Common Name  : Nandiarvattom or Crepe jasmine or Carnation of India

Family                 : Apocyanaceae

      The plant is a small shrub that produces white fragrant flowers throughout the year, leaves are simple, dark green, fruits are rarely produced; propagation done mainly through stem cuttings. These flowers are considered sacred and used for temple performances.


Pala or Black-board tree or Indian devil tree 

Scientific Name : Alstonia scholaris

Common Name  : Pala or Black-board tree or Indian devil tree 

 Family                :Apocynaceae

      A soft-stemmed tree with highly fragrant tiny flowers that open during night. Several leaves (seven, nine etc) arise from a single nod and several braches start from the same joint giving the tree a particular shape. Fruits are long pods that hang in clusters. Pala is believed to be the abode of fairies by Indian myths! The fragrance of its flower is sweet when light but causes giddiness when smelled; may be the reason for this innocent tree being called devil tree!


Pitchi, Jathimalli or Common jasmine or Poet’s jasmine

Scientific Name : Jasminum officinale 

Common Name  : Pitchi, Jathimalli or Common jasmine or Poet’s jasmine

Family                 : Oleaceae 

      A weak stemmed climber plant that bears extremely aromatic white flower clusters; this plant’s leaves, roots and flowers have medicinal value. Leaves are pinnately compound with seven leaflets with a larger one at the tip. Laces made of Pitchi flowers are a craze to any Indian lady and these flowers are sold at high prices.


Rajamalli, Dasa-mandaram or Dwarf poinciana

Scientific Name : Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Common Name  : Rajamalli, Dasa-mandaram or Dwarf poinciana 

Family                 :Fabaceae

            The plant is a spiny shrub; it is a garden plant for its beautiful inflorescence with yellow and reddish flowers; leaves are compound with numerous leaflets. Pods contain five to seven seeds. As the name indicates this plant is a small shrub that does not grow more than 4 meters in height.


Sankhu-pushpam, Gokarna, aparojita or Butterfly pea or blue- pea vine

Scientific Name : Clitoria ternatea

Common Name  : Sankhu-pushpam, Gokarna, aparojita or Butterfly pea or blue- pea vine 

Family                 : Fabaceae

      The plant is a climber plant that bears blue conch shaped inner part above blue or white lower petal. Leaves are green pinnately compound, has much medicinal values. The shape of conch-shell is behind the name of Shankupushpam; shanku means conch-shell in Malayalam (conch-shell is also considered sacred by Hindus).


Thamara, Kamalam, Padmam or Indian lotus 

Scientific Name : Nelumbo nucifera

Common Name  : Thamara, Kamalam, Padmam or Indian lotus     

Family                 : Nelumbonaceae

       It is an aquatic plant that grows in fresh water lakes and ponds with stem buried in the ground. Lotus leaves are round and floats on water connected to the stem with long stalks. Flowers are fragrant and have many red to white colored petals. Lotus is a sacred flower by Hindus and goddess Saraswati is believed to be seated on a lotus flower (Saraswati is the goddess of learning and wisdom).


Thetti, Thechi or West Indian jasmine or Jungle geranium

Scientific Name : Ixora coccinia

Common Name  : Thetti, Thechi or West Indian jasmine or Jungle geranium    

Family                 : Rubiaceae

      This is an evergreen shrub that grows to less than 8 feet. Flowers are in cymose recemes; generally brick-red to yellow in color. Thetti is also a sacred plant and used in temple rituals. It is a widely grown garden plant; leaves are simple and dark green; has extensive use in Ayurvedic medicines.


Thottavadi or Tickle me plant

Scientific Name : Mimosa pudica

Common Name  : Thottavadi or Tickle me plant      

Family                 : Leguminosae

      It has many names such as ‘touch me not, shameful plant, sleeping grass, prayer plant etc due to its property to temporarily wilt when touched (thigmotropism). It flowers profusely during the onset of summer and stays flowered until the end of autumn. Flowers are lilac with numerous stamens giving it a ball shaped beautiful shape. It is a spiny creeping plant and grows in waste lands and on road-sides. Mimosa plant has medicinal properties that can cure piles, urinary stone etc.


Thulasi or Holy basil plant is an herb with high medicinal value

Scientific Name : Ocimum tunnuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum

Common Name  : Thulasi or Holy basil plant is an herb with high medicinal value     

Family                 :Laminaceae

      It is an herb (about three feet in height) with small aromatic simple leaves; flowers terminal racemes. It is grown in front of the houses on special platforms and watered and housewives circumambulate around this plant every morning with folded hands as this plant is supposed to be a holy one.


Vakha, Gulmohur, Krishna-chura or Royal Poinciana 

Scientific Name :  Delonix regia

Common Name  : Vakha, Gulmohur, Krishna-chura or Royal Poinciana     

Family                 : Fabaceae

      The plant is a weak-stemmed tree with compound leaves with numerous leaflets Its flowers are extremely beautiful with one white and other four red petals. Fruits are large sword-like pods with many seeds. A Gulmohur plant at full-bloom is an unforgettable sight.


Velipparuthi or Spanish-flag is a wild invasive spiny shrub

Scientific Name  :  Lantana camara

Common Name   : Velipparuthi or Spanish-flag is a wild invasive spiny shrub      

Family                  : Verbenaceae

      Its flowers are arranged in terminal cymes (that is born at the tip of the branch and in dumbbell shaped inflorescence). Flowers are tiny but very attractive; younger sporting lighter color.


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