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 only plant in this group that is prevalent in Iowa is Mimulus ringens. Sometimes known as Allegheny monkey flower or blue monkey flower, this species is native to most of the U.S. and Canada.
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.