Sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus) grows on rocky slopes, disturbed areas, coastal cliffs and canyon walls below 3,000 feet in California and Southern Oregon. This hardy plant even thrives on nutrient-poor, serpentine substrates. While hiking the Enderts Beach Trail south of Crescent City CA (Del Norte County), we spied some sticky monkeyflowers on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Leonard assured me he could retrieve a specimen without taking a “shortcut” straight down to the beach, hundreds of feet below. Thankfully he, and a monkeyflower, made it safely back to the trail.
Sticky monkeyflower is an erect to spreading, evergreen shrub (drought deciduous) with woody stems. The branches are often glandular. This native is a member of the Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae). The opposite leaves are entire or toothed and are oblong to lanceolate to almost linear. The upper surface of the leaf blade is dark green and nearly glabrous (hairless) with sessile glands. The lower leaf surface is paler and slightly pubescent (hairy). Often smaller leaves are facicled (in bundles) in the leaf axils.
There are one to several pediceled (stalked) flowers in the uppermost leaf axils. Sticky monkeyflowers exhibit great variation regionally. The flowers can be white, yellow, orange or red. The tubular flowers open into five broad lobes, two upper and three lower. The stamens are slightly exserted (protruding) while the superior ovary has two white, sensitive lobes that close when touched or pollinated.
Sticky monkeyflower fruits are two-valved, elliptical capsules that split at the upper suture to release the many seeds.
Bees and hummingbirds pollinate sticky monkeyflowers. Butterfly larvae (especially checkerspot species and the common buckeye) use sticky monkeyflowers as hosts. The young leaves of sticky monkeyflower were eaten by Native Americans as a salad green. Medicinally, indigenous people made poultices of crushed sticky monkeyflower leaves and stems to soothe burns and minor wounds.
Orange bush monkey flower is another colloquial name for D aurantiacus. (I do not know why with this and other Diplacus species, the common name is sometimes written as one word and sometimes as two words: monkey flower and monkeyflower.) The species designation, aurantiacus, means orange. Diplacus derives from the Greek words “di” (two) and “plakous” (placenta) and refers to the double placenta (tissues in the ovary that bear the ovules) found in this genus.
A synonym for D aurantiacus is Mimulus aurantiacus, Mimulus being the genus in which all monkeyflowers were originally placed.