Flowers of Arunachala


This posting shows many flowers that can be seen on and around Arunachala. It is organized by the month in which the photos were taken.

We have lived near Arunachala for almost four years now, and have taken a few thousand photos of the Hill and the forests that surround it. Only recently I had the idea that a posting that shows flowers that we have photographed would be good. During most of the time here, taking photos has never been something we have done on any organized basis, though. So I have combed through years of photo files, and recently (for the last few weeks) concentrated on taking more photos of flowers we see. For this reason, the number of flowers shown below in March and April may be higher than they could be; if I had been paying attention before, maybe I would have snapped them earlier.

Unfortunately, I have no idea of the names of most of the flowers and plants here. Any help from readers on this would be most appreciated. I will update this post as I receive information.

I think plant flowering depends on two things: season and water. Some plants’ flowering, I think, very  much depends on the season and they flower at about the same time each year, and others depend on season and water availability. The flowering of this later group is pretty variable.

I dug the following information about average rainfall in the Tiruvannamalai district out of a governmental agricultural report.

Average rainfall, Tiruvannamalai, 2005-2007:

ScreenHunter_04 May. 12 17.29

The time of the year that seems to have the most varieties of flowers is May or June, when the rains come after the summer dry spell. Some of the plants just flower for a brief period, others seem to have a long flowering season. I will note these as I can within the post.


This is a flower I call the “Arunachala  Lily.” The latin name is Gloriosa Superba. It is the national flower of Zimbabwe (where it is called a flame lily) and the state flower of Tamil Nadu (Kandhal flower). I have seen a few blooms scattered sparsely around Arunachala for the last few years.  The all-red color is a late stage bloom. Earlier it is yellow and red. This is shown in November’s flowers. It grows supported by other plants. It is a personal favorite of mine.



This is some kind of Salvia, similar to Mexican Sage in the US. This variety has white flowers.



I am not sure what these are, maybe another Salvia.



In March of two years in a row I found photos of these white flower-covered trees, similar to fruit trees in the USA. I have seen no fruit, but maybe I did not look closely enough. The two photos below were taken from the Kattu Siva area.


The flower below was taken from the south side of Arunachala, about 1/2 way up the hill.

This tree has shoots of white flowers, in profusion.


This cactus has red structures that are its flowers. You might not see them as flowers unless you look closely.



This yellow flower is from a bush. I think it blooms for a few months. The east end of Parvati Hill is in the background.


This is another tree covered profusely with wispy white flowers.



I think this is a close up of the yellow flower bush shown in March.


I don’t think the flowers above are the same kind of flower as those below. Notice the thorn bush on which they sprout. Often I pull these common thorns from my shoes (and feet).


These next two photos might be more of the flowers shown in the pervious month, or a different one, I don’t know, but I suspect that it is. They are from a bush or small tree.


Below are the stages of fluffy flowers from the same tree. The flowers in the photos are from small trees. When fully grown, these trees become very large.

The flower bud is in the center of the photo below, while the early stage “fluff” is shown on the left.


Another view of the early flower.


The mid-life flower is like the early one, but the violet has turned white.

The late stage flower has lost the yellow tip.


These are buds from a tree that flowers only for a brief time. When I returned in two days, all the flowering was over.


Water lilies are only found in a few places around Arunachala. The two places that I have seen them are both in the Kattu Siva area. I think the plants in the water pump tank have been destroyed, so they no longer bloom there. With this growth gone, the only area I know of is nearby, in what I call the Forest Shrine Tank.



Small delicate white flowers bloom for many months on this nasty thorn bush.



These are tiny ‘half flowers’ that grow near to the ground, and, I think, bloom for a long time (if you look).


I saw the flowers shown in the two photos below only once, a few weeks ago. I would have remembered if I had seen them before. They were in the Kattu Siva area, growing from a low bush.

I think this is a new bloom:


And this an older one:


These flowers grow on small to medium-sized trees. I think they have a fairly long blooming season.



Someone told me that the flowers below only bloom for one day, then fall off the tree. This certainly could be the case; every tree I have seen has many blooms lying beneath it on the ground.

These are blooms from another tree. Not common, and do not last long.



This is a small ground flower, maybe 1.5 inches wide.



Overhead, on a tall tree on the path to Kattu Siva cave, you will see white flowers with a yellow center.

They are everywhere, at end of each branch.


When I look at the blooms on the ground, I recognize them as a common ornamental tree planted in gardens in Tiruvannamalai. They must have been planted in Kattu Siva’s time, as part of extensive work that was done by his devotees in this area. As I see all the work that was done, I feel like he must be more significant than most people think.


Here is the tree. It is maybe 40 feet tall.


This is another small ground flower, with a slight purple tint.


These hanging yellow buds and flowers are from a tree at Kattu Siva’s cave. I think I saw a similar tree on the north side of Arunachala three years ago. I thought I had a photo, but could not find it in my archive.


The flowers hang down in globules of blooms.

With several buds on each stem.


Very showy flowers. My guess is that this tree was planted in the space that was cleared near the cave.



These are small ground flowers. These are blue, and they are purple in another phase.

A white ground flower, five petals around a trumpet.


These flowers bloom in May or June, after the good rains start.


Their sweet perfume wafts through the Arunachala hillside, giving it a floral aroma.


They grow on bushes that are common here.


Before the rains, the leaves of this bush dry and curl up. The plant looks dead. In a few days the flowers turn brown, the the small round green seed pods form.

These next flowers are tiny, and grow everywhere on this common small bush.


The flowers remind me of daffodils, with white petals surrounding a yellow cup. They are maybe half an inch wide.

The next flowers were on one of the trees planted this year by the Department of Forestry. I think they are just trying to plant native species.


The flowers are small, no more than 1/2 an inch wide. In this close up below they are quite pretty, like a daffodil with a purple center.

This flowering shrub is not as common as the aromatic one earlier in this post. But it is the leader in wafting wonderful perfume around Arunachala. It has a strong sweet smell that will be noticed a long way downwind from the plant.


The individual blooms are pretty ordinary, but there are so many blooms together on the tree that it is quite beautiful.

I am told by locals that cobras like the smell of this shrub, so maybe you should be careful as you approach it. I saw no snakes, however.

These next long fluffy flowers are about two inches in length. They grow on a tree found occasionally around the mountain.

They only last a few days. If you are not paying attention, you will miss them and then they are gone for another year.


These are already turning brown.

This ground flower is a tiny white cup, about half an inch wide. It is so white that it does not photograph well.

This is a small light violet trumpet ground flower.

These are Lantana. They grow wild and are pretty common in the countryside around Tiruvannamalai, but not common around Arunachala. These are near Pachiaimman Koil.


This is another Salvia, from many near Pachiaimman Koil.


Small star-shaped white flowers on a thorn bush.

HPIM4416 closeup

These are a different kind of long white fluffy flower than the one earlier in this post. They are on more of a bush than a tree.

HPIM4417 closeup

More yellow flowers, generously adorning this bush.


Here we look down from the hillside above Arunachaleswara Temple, and look over a tree with wonderful red blooms. I am pretty sure that this tree was planted here; you do not see them in other places on the mountain.


Tiny flowers on a low bush.


Yellow globule flowers on a bush.



Another small white flower on a ground-hugging bush.


These are old flowers that bloom profusely on one of the nastiest thorn bushes that are common in most areas on and around Arunachala. If you see small white flowers mixed in with red turned leaves, watch out!


Here are spikes of the same flowers, just before they bloom. Again, if you see these, do not get too close.



This tree is by the road. I think it is the same red-flowered tree seen earlier on the hillside above the big temple. I show it because the tree is so magnificent. It is the only plant or tree shown in this post not growing on or next to the mountain.



These are white balls blooming in a tree.



This plant looks like a garden plant. It is about 1 1/2 feet high.


Below, a plant with the fanciest flowers of any I have seen near the mountain. I have only seen this one time.


Below are cactus flowers, from another kind of cactus that grows near Arunachala.



These are big, about 3 or 4 inches wide, that grow near a few of the tanks here. White with a purple center.


Here are ‘Arunachala Lilies’ again, in their early phase, yellow and orange.


I love these. They look like the fire of Arunachala is flaming from within them.


Here is the plant, growing with support from nearby plants.



In December, occasionally you will see these long spikes of flowers that hang from trees.


Each flower is not much, but with the many on each spike, and the many hanging spikes, they are quite showy.



We end with another yellow flower, perhaps shown before. This is on a bush next to the Forest Shrine Tank.


I hope you enjoyed the flower show. These are not seen by most people who visit Tiruvannamalai. This posting was put together from photos taken over several years. Now I will keep my eyes open and look for new varieties. If I get enough, I will post again on this subject, or maybe update this article.

I am sorry that I know so few of the names of these. Please, if you know what  they are, add a comment and let us know.

10 Responses to “Flowers of Arunachala”

  1. bhartendumehta Says:

    Marvellous post.
    Thanks very much.
    Dr Bhartendu Mehta

  2. karthigainathan Says:

    You are doing a wonderful service to Tiruvannamalai, a holy land. The Arunachaleshwar is watching your service. Keep doint it… All the best!!!

  3. karthik Says:

    Good to know that you are also interested in photography. I wish you post photos of mystical, mysterious, divine sadhus of Arunachala.

    • richardclarke Says:

      Maybe you should look at some of the ‘Sadhu feedings’ posts that I have put up.

  4. drpvssnraju Says:

    Excellent flowers.Thank you so much Richard Clarke.

  5. kevjkelly Says:

    I REALLY appreciated the flowers feature. I have only visited Arunachala once but I visit daily in spirit. The first flower in the blog is ‘gloriosa superba’. It is found in Africa as well as the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia. It is the state flower of Tamil Nadu and is also the national flower of Zimbabwe where it is called the ‘flame lily’. I have never seen such a deep red specimen in my native South Africa, although the species takes many forms. The powder-puff plant is called Dichrostachys Cinerea (Tamil: “vidathther” – widely used medicinal plant) and it has the same kind of distribution as the ‘Arunachala flame lily’, and is also found in N Australia. (The distribution of these plants symbolises the deep connections of those of us living on the rims of the Indian Ocean and it is pleasing to have some of the plants of Arunachala growing naturally in my own neighbourhood in South Africa). The plant you call a cactus is not a cactus but is in fact a euphorbia, and it has a white milky latex to prove it. Commonly called the candelabra tree it takes many different forms and I’m not sure what particular species this one is. A very good link on the flowers of India is and I think from that you will be able to identify most of the plants shown. The site has a search feature based on the colour of the flowers which really helps identification. Keep up the good work Richard. I read every blog. Kevin Kelly, South Africa

  6. sadhuwayfarer Says:

    Good photos. Wonderful site. Your work is appreciated.
    Re: ‘Arunachala lily’. The latin name is Gloriosa superba. It is the national flower of Zimbabwe (where it is called a flame lily) and the state flower of Tamil Nadu (Kandhal flower)

  7. tskraghu Says:

    A real visual treat! Thanks.

  8. mnaren Says:

    Fantastic collection of photos- thanks!

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