Thursday, November 11, 2010


Mimulus aurantiacus, also known as the monkey flower, is one of the most interesting flowers on UCSD’s campus because of the steps in its pollination sequence. Unlike most plants that we come across daily, these plants are capable of very rapid movement! The monkey flower is a shrub native to California and can be found on campus north of Geisel Library in UCSD’s ecological reserve park. Although monkey flower colors vary, the campus' flowers are generally an orange-red. The stigma lobes, which look more or less like tiny white fish lips, are part of the female reproductive system in plants. What makes this flower unique is the closure of the lobes upon touch, an action that you can watch from beginning to completion in just a few seconds. If the lobes are touched without pollen, the lobes close but then will quickly reopen within the next day. If the lobes are touched with pollen, part of the male reproductive system in plants, the pollen will continue down the pistil to the ovule. If many pollen grains make it into the ovule, the lobes will never reopen. However, if only a few grains travel into the ovule, the lobes will most likely reopen. These plants are commonly pollinated by bees and hummingbirds, so be on the lookout for both if you if you come across these flowers, which bloom from March to July. Try touching the white stigma lobes and watching them close! We guarantee that afterward, you'll never be able to pass by a bush of monkey flowers without having an urge to prod them. Happy poking!

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