Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Common Monkeyflower

Mimulus guttatus or Erythranthe guttata

Common Monkeyflower
Seep-Spring Monkeyflower: photo by Cliff Hutson
The Common Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)also known as Seep-Spring Monkeyflower, is a variable plant ranging from spindly and tiny to large and bushy, between one and three feet tall. The two-lipped yellow flowers have red, or reddish-brown spots and can range from about one half inch to almost two inches in length. Described as a plant that likes to get its feet wet, it is found in moist places through out most of California below 10,000 feet and flowers from March in to August. It thrives in many habitats - Coastal Strand, Northern Coastal Scrub, Yellow Pine Forest, Red Fir Forest, Lodgepole Forest, Subalpine Forest, Foothill Woodland, Chaparral, Valley Grassland, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, (many plant communities), wetland-riparian.

My field guides place it in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort family). Newer references, such as Jepson eFlora, have it in the Phrymaceae (Lopseed family). The name monkeyflower comes from the supposition that the flowers look like little faces when viewed from the front. I have never seen a monkey’s face. However, based on my experiences leading wildflower walks, those participants under nine years of age seem to see it quite readily. 

These are not just plants lovely to look at, monkeyflower leaves were eaten as a salad. The stems and roots were brewed as a tea and used to treat diarrhea and kidney problems. 

Common Monkeyflower
Common Monkeyflower: photo by Cliff Hutson
Recent molecular analysis seems to indicate that almost all Mimulus species in western North America should be reassigned to the species Erythranthe and eventually Mimulus guttatus will be called Erythranthe guttata.

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