Yellow Monkey Flower in Fall

The blooming season is over and wildflowers no longer display their colorful finery. Yet that does not mean these plants are no longer beautiful or interesting. The remains of wildflowers out of season may not resemble their verdant forms and are often difficult to identify. This winter I hope to work on identifying some of the dried plant remnants.

During the summer yellow monkey flowers (Mimulus guttanus) brighten streamsides, seeps and other wet areas with their two-lipped, trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers occur in the axes of opposite leaves and form loose terminal clusters. Once the flowers drop the fused sepals form an inflated balloon or bladder surrounding a long, flattened capsule containing many seeds. The fused sepals, or calyx, is ribbed and tears easily. Thus with time the dry fruit can begin to look ragged.

These monkey flower fruits were found along the canal in the McArthur Swamp (Shasta County CA). The masses of yellow monkey flower plants that earlier in the summer lined the canal banks are now erect, tan sentinels bearing delicate little inflated balloons.

The pictures show the loose cluster of inflated sepals (calyxes) at the stem end, individual calyxes, the capsule within the calyx and a split capsule revealing the seeds. I also included two pictures from my previous post on yellow monkey flowers (linked above) – a flower in bloom and the inflated sepals shortly after formation before they dried.

In its own way the skeleton of the yellow monkey flower is just as spectacular as the blooming flower, particularly when one considers the complex transformation that has occurred.

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