By Zola Nesbitt, CWC Watershed Steward
Every second Saturday of the month, CWC (Coastal Watershed Council) leads River Health Days where volunteers help plant and care for a variety of native plant species to increase biodiversity and habitat complexity, and support a healthy river ecosystem. Sticky Monkey Flower (Diplacus aurantiacus) is one beneficial plant you may spot growing along the river.
Sticky Monkey Flower is a beautiful native plant that thrives along the Central Coast. Identifiable by its tubular orange flowers that resemble the face of a monkey, it varies in shade and size without distinct petals. The flowers taper to a long cone shape that is perfect for attracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Its leaves are shiny and dark green, and the edges curl towards the leaves’ underside. This perennial plant can reach 4 ft. tall and thrives in full sunshine.
This colorful flower is an essential contributor to our natural habitat along the San Lorenzo River. It is frequently visited by pollinators like honey bees and Anna’s hummingbirds. Butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Checkerspot, and Common Buckeyes also rely on this plant during the early stages of their life cycle. When the butterflies are in their larval (caterpillar) stage, they feed on this native to gain nutrients for their metamorphosis!
The Sticky Monkey Flower plant has been used by the Coast Miwok people by crushing its leaves to treat sores and burns. The roots of the plant are used to treat fever, dysentery, diarrhea, and hemorrhages. The Pomo people use this plant in a decoction, or liquid concentrate, to treat sore, bloodshot eyes.
Sticky Monkey Flower is a special “resurrection plant,” meaning it has an incredible ability to withstand drought. It can go for long periods of time without any water and has adapted to retain moisture effectively. Though it may look dried up at this time, once it receives some water, the plant will spring back to life rapidly. Scientists call this “desiccation tolerance,” and other plants like mint share this characteristic. The sticky residue on the flower’s petals act as a protective barrier for the plant so that it does not lose its moisture during our long dry summers.
Love Sticky Monkey Flower? Join CWC for a River Health Day!
You can make a difference in the San Lorenzo ecosystem by caring for Sticky Monkey Flower and other native plants that enhance the ecological value of San Lorenzo River habitat. Join other volunteers at monthly River Health Days to plant more native species. Sign up here!
References to Learn More:
- National Park Service. “Sticky Monkey Flower.” Feb. 28, 2015. https://www.nps.gov/prsf/learn/nature/sticky-monkey-flower.htm
- California Native Plant Society. “Sticky Monkey Flower.” https://calscape.org/Mimulus-aurantiacus-var.-pubescens-()
- Las Pilitas Nursery. “California Monkey Flowers.” https://www.laspilitas.com/groups/Monkey_flower/California_monkey_flower.html