By cabbagetree

Wild flowers

Pink and purple lupin, white yarrow, and yellow monkey musk.

The monkey musk is interesting. Mimulus guttatus, the common monkey flower, is a native of western North America, where it has many forms, some of which could be regarded as a separate species. Here in New Zealand there appears to be just the common variety. It grows along streams and ditches.

When my mother-in-law was a girl, back in the 1890s, monkey musk was her favourite flower, not only because of the bright colour, but because of the wonderful perfume. As she grew older she found that the perfume was fading. Eventually she couldn't smell it at all. In the 1970s if she saw some while we were out driving she would ask us to stop to pick some for her to smell. She was always disappointed. We would all have to sniff at it and none of us could smell it either. For Mum it was an inexplicable loss.

When I looked the up flower in the New Zealand Wild Flowers Handbook (by Owen and Audrey Bishop) for its binomial name I learned that at one time it was cultivated for its perfume. Plants without perfume began to appear in the early 20th century and now none with perfume are known.

I have searched the web for an explanation, but although there is a huge amount of information on this plant I found no references to perfume. Other mimulus varieties have perfume, but not specifically this one. Was the perfumed monkey musk a variation that just grew here in New Zealand? Is it perfumed anywhere else?

You might like to look at this in large.

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