Monday, January 2, 2012

monkeyflower ~ 01/02/12 ~ Palo Corona

Mimulus sp. (aka Diplacus sp.)
Phrymaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

Andy and I joke with each other regularly about how we're getting old. Despite his increasing amount of grey in his beard (and ear tufts... snicker) and my having gained a few extra pounds, we're mostly referring to our older mindset. I'm feeling more and more fixed in my opinions. This monkeyflower reminds me of this. I've never seen one so reddish-orange, and it was obviously purposely planted near the interpretive signs. The wild growing monkeyflowers on this same hike were the typical buttery orange color of Mimulus aurantiacus that I've come to expect to be blooming somewhere near here all year round.

I have some issue with planting "natives" when, in fact, they may not actually be native to a specific area. Town Mouse and Country Mouse had an interesting post recently making the distinction between native plants and native garden hybrids. With native planting so popular here in CA, I've often wondered how "native" is defined, especially when I spot plants in gardens that are obviously from SoCal (Santa Barbara south to San Diego), several hundred miles south of where I live. It might as well be in a different country, but we all know political and natural boundaries do not coincide.

I've tried my best to ID this particular plant and I'm at a loss, partially due to botanical names being changed left and right. I had to laugh when Las Pilitas Nursery stated, "The botanists over the years have called it all sorts of names, with no cross references, very confusing. Botanists need to get a life!" My best guess is that this is a cultivated hybrid. The closest visual matches I've found have been: CalPhotos 1 (most significant for the local cultivated description), CalPhotos 2 (showing how the experts can't seem to agree), San Diego Sunrise from Las Pilitas, and Sunset Monkeyflower from Camissonia's Corner (a garden blogger from SoCal).


Imperfect and tense said...

Katie, I'm afraid I can't help with the provenance of the Monkeyflower, though we do see them on our travels to Orkney, of all places. And neither can I figure out the evolutionary benefit of male 'ear tufts', other than to amuse one's partner.

randomtruth said...

I'd say that this is the perennial bush monkeyflower, Mimulus aurantiacus. But, it could easily be a cultivar or a hybrid with a cultivar.

The Diplacus confusion you found in your searches comes from the plant's strange taxonomic history. M. aurantiacus was formerly in the genus Diplacus, and because the plant varies wildly across the state, there were a bunch of different recognized species and subspecies in CA. Species for the yellow, orange, and red variants, for the woody perennials, and herbaceous perennials, etc. But, pre Jepson 93, it was decided that they weren't really separate species, and they were all lumped into aurantiacus. It's still controversial. And very confusing too, since the horticulture world had already run with "Diplacus" and had been creating all sorts of named forms, which persist to this day.

randomtruth said...

Here's the form from Chimineas in SLO County that made me ask this same "what up?" question. Down there, the aurantiacus are mostly herbaceous perennials that die back to the ground each year, and then pop-up and grow fast during the wet season. And you gotta love the big yellow flowers.

Cindy said...

In my occasional hikes in the Monterey area, I've noticed a lot of variance in the color of monkeyflowers there and have just considered that area the land of spectacular monkeyflowers. The multiple revisions at your second Calflora reference are hilarious and I did a quick check with my new Jepson manual (initiating it by spilling the first drops of coffee) and they still don't seem consistent. There is a beautiful monkeyflower in the Pinnacles that is the most delicate light cream yellow with double-cut petal tips - I haven't confirmed its species but it has convinced me that the monkeyflowers have a lot of natural variety not just cultivars and I try to find it and visit whenever I am down there. It defines the place for me.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Graeme, did you post any pics of monkeyflower from your Orkney trip last year? I'd love to see what the UK has to offer. As for the extra hair in ears, I'm quite amused and have threatened tweezers or scissors to keep them in check. I figure it's nature's way of keeping older mens' heads warm, especially when they're also losing hair on top.

Ken, I agree, it's probably a var. of Mimulus aurantiacus, but for now I want to leave it open since I truly believe this is a garden cultivar, likely from SoCal hybrids or the single Santa Lucia Mountains' cultivar Pimkolam. If I had also seen this growing wild nearby, I'd have a better opinion about it. I worry the extensive planting of native hybrids in gardens or for "restoration" efforts may have a negative impact on the local natural populations. Your lemony yellow monkeyflower is quite impressive.

Cindy, I'm glad to hear one of my posts helped initiate your new Jepson. I haven't taken more pictures of monkeyflower, because the ID's are confusing to me and it's so common here that I often overlook them. I'm guessing your cream yellow with double-cut petal tips is cutpetal bush monkeyflower. Btw, Pinnacles is in San Benito Co. I should probably pick up a copy of Jepsons, but even the online version is often too technical for me. One of my goals for this year is to attend a local CNPS meeting. While we've volunteered for them through the years, I'm curious to see if the rest of the group are all 20 years older than us...

randomtruth said...

Your cutpetal monkey is also aurantiacus, btw. It's Mimulus aurantiacus var. grandiflorus.

Planting of native hybrids can be worrisome, but seems like it must be better than planting non-natives from Europe and South Africa (IMO). The native hybrids fit the ecosystem, and should be useful to all the native inverts and birds and such, whereas many non-native cultivars do nothing for the local ecosystems except make the non-native honey bees happy.

I'm a member of Santa Clara Valley CNPS, and yes, most folks are retired and 60+. That said, the group is chalk full of wonderful people, and around here seems to be the catch basin for nature geeks, from botanists to geologists to entomologists. I.e., lots 'o like minds and like interests.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about planting 'natives'. I ordered some 'native' seed mixes and haven't seen these flowers anywhere except in other gardens!