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May 2019: Bush Monkey-Flower

Photo credit: Flickr NatureShutterbug

The bush monkey-flower or sticky monkey-flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), recently changed to (Diplacus aurantiacus), is a flowering perennial shrub that is native mostly to California but edges north just into southwestern Oregon and south slightly into Baja, Mexico. It grows up to 1.2 meters tall, has deep green sticky leaves with flowering stems that grow vertically. The tubular flowers are about an inch long which can be almost white or colored  salmon, through orange and bronze, to deep red. With some imagination you may be able to see a monkey face in the flower.
 
Reportedly, the native american tribe Kumeyaay used monkey-flower primarily for medicinal purposes, from poultices for burns and wounds to treatments for colds, coughs, flus, stomach disorders and heart ailments. Some native Americans used the young stems and leaves of monkeyflower for salad greens. 
 
It is a valuable wildlife plant pollinated by bees and hummingbirds and it also serves as a host plant for the larvae of the common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) and the variable checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona). The stigmas are notably sensitive and will close after being touched (termed "seismonastic movement") and is thought to aid in pollination.
 
As a garden plant, the monkey flower is an attractive pollinator-friendly plant that is deer resistant and has low water requirements. It can be grown from seed or cuttings. It has a long flowering period that can extend through spring and summer seasons. It is able to grow in variable climates and will thrive in many types of soil, wet, dry, sandy, or rocky and it even grows in serpentine soils that are challenging for most plants because of its unique mineral composition.  
 
Photo credit: Flickr NatureShutterbug