Monkey flower was a new discovery for me last summer, even though it’s not a rare plant. According to an article in UConn Today, “The so-called Monkey Flowers in the genus Mimulus got their name because their flowers have a mouth-like shape, and to some they resemble the face of a monkey. They are actually a diverse group of some 150 species worldwide, with about 80 of those species native to California.”
The Illinois Wildflowers website notes that Mimulus ringens thrives in “floodplain and bottomland forests (particularly in partially sunny areas), swamps, seeps, muddy borders of small streams or ponds, drainage ditches, prairie swales, and wet meadows. It typically occurs in areas that are prone to occasional flooding or standing water.” That observation is consistent with my experience. Both prairie plantings where I have found monkey flower in Windsor Heights (in Colby Park and behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road) flooded this summer.
The buds on this monkey flower plant are just about to open.
Sometimes the flowers look purple.
Other blossoms are blue-violet.
Naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller found some monkey flower plants growing at the “muddy river edge of the North Raccoon river in Hobbs Conservation Area in Carroll County.”
Matthew John took this lovely photograph in Winneshiek County in early August.
Monkey flower blossoms can be much more pale, nearly white. Lael Darrow Neal captured some beautiful close-up views of pale monkey flowers at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Polk County in June. I used one of her pictures as the top image for this post.
The Illinois Wildflowers website describes the fruit of this species as follows: “Each flower is replaced by a rounded seed capsule that contains numerous tiny seeds with reticulated outer surfaces. These seeds are dispersed by wind or water. The root system is rhizomatous. Although this plant can spread vegetatively, it isn’t a strong colonizer.” I took this picture of seed pods developing a few weeks ago in Colby Park.