Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Slimy Monkey Flower

Downy Monkey Flower

Slimy Monkey Flower

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Slimy Monkey Flower
Scientific Name:Erythranthe floribunda
Family:Phrymaceae (Lopseed)
Plant Type:Annual
Size:up to 20 inches
Habitat:Riparian
Blooms:May to September
Fire Response:Germinate from Seed

Erythranthe floribunda or as it is commonly known, Slimy Monkey Flower, is among the tiniest of flowers you may come across in the Santa Monica Mountains. Native to the western states, western Canada and Baja California is found at elevations up to 9,000 feet. Preferred habitat is along streams, seeps; typically moist sandy or gravelly soils. The Woolsey Fire provided many an opening for this and other plants in 2019. Other Monkey Flowers in our mountains grab your attention with their bright colorful flowers as you pass them by - this plant is going to require that you stop and give it your full attention when making an identification. Milt’ McCauley’s book says these flowers are rare. After the Woolsey fire I located them in a remote location (in stream beds) - Trancas Canyon.

This is an annual herb growing no higher 20 inches (50 centimeters). The plant takes several forms from prostrate to sprawling. Densely coated in silky (sometimes they feel slimy) hairs this plant’s name quite apt. Oppositely arranged, ovate shaped leaves are connected near the stem via a pedicel (stem) that is short or non-existent. The base of the flower is protected by a hairy calyx of pointed sepals and its yellow flower corolla is under a centimeter long. The symetrical corolla is divided into five rounded lobes at the mouth. How small is the flower? The widest part of the corolla is approximately 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide and the length is 3/4 inch (18mm).

This plant occupies the same niche as Erythranthe floribunda (Slimy Monkey Flower). Similar in size and flower type, one must note the following characteristics to make an identification:

Type of leaves

  • Lance to oblong shaped leaves - Erythranthe pilosus
  • Ovate and often rose colored - Erythranthe floribunda

No Stems

  • Stems - short to none -Erythranthe floribunda
  • presence of two reddish dots - Erythranthe pilosus

Monkeyflowers have been an ideal candidate for research because the species contains a wide array of phenotypic, ecological and genomic diversity. Numerous studies have proven the experimental tractability of Mimulus in laboratory and field studies. As a result of study they have been grouped and regrouped which has resulted in the changing of names that many people first learned. Read this article. The biggest change is that the Mimulus species has been split into Diplacus and Erythranthe.

Monkeyflowers were once in the Mimulus genus. DNA studies in recent years have divided them between two genera, Diplacus and Erythranthe. Diplacus are characterized by flowers which are sessile (directly attached to the stalk) and have flowers that are persistent (remain attached) after flowering. Erythranthe have flowers with a pedicel (the stalk that connects the flower to the stem) longer than the calyx and which are deciduous (fall) shortly after flowering. Look at the soil around the base of the plant for flowers that have been shed.
Link to Calfora.net - the best source of this fascinating information! Name Origin: Diplacus: from the Greek di, "two, double", and plax or plakos, "a flat round plate, tablet or broad surface." Thomas Nuttall's 1838 publication On Two New Genera of California Plants in which he named this genus says "The generic name alludes to the splitting of the capsule, attached to each valve of which is seen a large placenta, and under its edges are found the slender subulate seeds." brevipes: with a short stalk.

Contributed by George Sherman


Slimy Monkey Flower - Plant of the Month for: January 2021
Last modified: August 05 2019 20:20:54.
References:
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves