Variations on a Theme: Monkeyflowers


Mimulus ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower)
Mimulus alatus (winged monkeyflower)

There are about 90 species of monkeyflowers in the US and Canada, but almost all of them are confined to the western part of the continent.  Five are found east of the Missiissippi, and of those, only two are known in Maryland.

Which one is pictured above?  That’s winged monkeyflower, but you can’t quite tell from the picture.  The flowers are almost identical, though in different parts of the country there can be marked color differences.


The Allegheny monkeyflower has sessile leaves (meaning the leaf base touches the stem), while the flowers are connected to the stem by a long pedicel.



Both species can grow up to 3 feet tall, and both have the same cultural requirements: wet or at least consistently moist soils, and some shade.  The sorry-looking specimen shown here was growing in a very interesting place (perhaps subject of a future blog post), in full sun.  All of the plants (there were only a few) were stunted.


Winged monkeyflower is the opposite of the other with respect to how the leaves and flowers connect to the stem. In this species, the flowers are sessile or almost sessile, while the leaves have longed winged petioles (and winged stems).

The winged monkeyflower has some conservation issues: special concern in Connecticut, threatened in Iowa, endangered in Massachusetts, probably extirpated in Michigan, and rare in New York.

20150724-20150724-_DSC0035nice, tall plants in part shade along the river


UPDATE: the genus Mimulus is now placed in the Phrymaceae

Flower of the Day: Winged Monkeyflower

Mimulus alatus; Phyrmaceae (lopseed family)


(The genus Mimulus is also placed in the figwort family by some authorities.)

Winged monkeyflower is found in the eastern US, and is listed as a plant of special concern in Connecticut, threatened in Iowa, endangered in Massachusetts, probably extirated in Michigan, and rare in New York.

It might not be rare in Maryland, but I consider myself lucky to have found it. I knew exactly where to look, and when, and there it was.  But I was hiking with Steve, who doesn’t like to stand around for half an hour while I photograph the same plant over and over, so I took a few very quick pictures and decided to come back a few days later for a more leisurely photo shoot.

When I say exactly, I mean exactly – I know exactly which fallen log over which seasonal stream these plants stand by.  And when I went back a few days later – nothing.  No flowers, anyway.  Top part of the plants missing, too.  Deer browse.

Always take the time to get a few good pictures, for you never know what the future holds.

Anyway, this is the sister plant to the Aug 1 FOTD (Allegheny monkeyflower). A few characteristics set them apart:

  • The leaves of M. alatus have long winged petioles, while the leaves of M. ringens are sessile.
  • The flowers of M. alatus have very short pedicels, while those of M. ringens are very long.
  • M. alatus flowers tend to be pink; M. ringens flowers tend to be light purple.

Of the 91 species of Mimulus listed in the USDA plants database, these are the only two found in Maryland.

DSC_0045M. alatus (winged monkeyflower)

M. ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower) 20140729-DSC_0002

Flower of the Day: Allegheny Monkeyflower

Mimulus ringens; Scrophulariaceae (figwort family)


Sometimes I’m just not going to get a good picture. I found this plant on two occasions. Both times, it was growing right at the edge of the canal, about ten feet away down a steep, poison-ivy covered bank. I’ll do a lot for a good picture, but I have limits.

There are three monkeyflowers found in this area; one of the others is called winged monkeyflower, a name that starts music from a certain seminal color motion picture start playing in my mind.  I found that one last summer in a marsh at the foot of Carderock but haven’t seen it this year.


This one is found all over the US and Canada except the mountain West.  It can grow up to three feet tall, and obviously likes wet soils and full sun.