CPC Plant Profile: Estuary Monkeyflower
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Plant Profile

Estuary Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus)

Beautiful shot of the species Mimulus ringens in flower. Photo Credit: John A. Lynch
Description
  • Global Rank: T2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Phrymaceae
  • State: ME, QC, VT
  • Nature Serve ID: 143434
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 08/13/1986

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus is a variety of monkeyflower with a highly restricted distribution from Maine to Quebec. It grows only in freshwater wetlands, usually tidal areas with fluctuating water levels. As a possible adaptation to its specialized habitat, the plant has a compact architecture with short internodes (distances between leaf pairs along the stem) and small leaves. It is known only from twelve localities in the U. S. and its status in Quebec is largely unknown. Threats to the long-term survival of this species include destruction of its wetland habitat, sea-level rise leading to an increase in salinity, and competition from invasive wetland species. Research and Management Summary: Much more ecological and genetic work is needed on this taxon to determine its distribution, its distinctiveness as a taxon, its taxonomic relationship to other varieties within the Mimulus ringens complex, and its rarity and conservation needs. Plant Description: Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus is a perennial, herbaceous plant with a square stem up to 1.3 m tall that arises from a rhizome. Leaves 2.5 to 5.0 cm long are arrayed oppositely on the stem at intervals of 1.5 to 2.5 cm. The showy, irregular, lavender-purple flowers vaguely resemble the flat, comical face of a monkey. In the variety colpophilus, the lobes of the calyx are only 1.5 to 2.5 mm long (half as long as variety ringens), and the flowers are borne on short pedicels only 1 to 1.7 cm long.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 09/19/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Jeffrey Karron (Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), is conducting several studies on the reproduction and evolution of Mimulus ringens (sensu lato)

  • 09/19/2020
  • Reproductive Research

In preliminary trials growing Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus and Mimulus ringens at the garden, an overlap in morphological traits were noted among the plants, raising questions about the validity of recognizing a separate variety. However, the two taxa flowered at different times, indicating that reproductive isolation may occur (W. E. Brumback, New England Wild Flower Society, personal communication)

  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has experimented with germinating seed of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus. Seed germinates immediately after harvesting; no pre-treatment is required (Brumback 1989). Resulting plants have been potted and brought to flowering stage successfully.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus is found only in Merrymeeting Bay, which is part of the Kennebec River estuary in Maine, and in estuaries of the St. Lawrence River system, Quebec, Canada. Twelve current element occurrences are known from Maine and it is not known how many occurrences there are in Quebec. Threats to its habitat are filling, dumping, and development.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

As articulated by NatureServe (2001), by Ewing (2001) for the related Mimulus moschatus, and by Haines (2001) for Merrymeeting Bay, threats to this species include: Changing hydrology (tidal amplitude, quality and quantity of freshwater, etc.) in est

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Twelve occurrences are recorded from Maine, and one herbarium record (at the New England Botanical Club collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts) from Vermont. The number of current occurrences in Quebec is not known. It is impossible to estimate global population numbers due to the paucity of information on this taxon.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has experimented with germinating seed of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus. Seed germinates immediately after harvesting; no pre-treatment is required (Brumback 1989). Resulting plants have been potted and brought to flowering stage successfully. In preliminary trials growing Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus and Mimulus ringens at the garden, an overlap in morphological traits were noted among the plants, raising questions about the validity of recognizing a separate variety. However, the two taxa flowered at different times, indicating that reproductive isolation may occur (W. E. Brumback, New England Wild Flower Society, personal communication). Much more research is necessary to explore these issues. Jeffrey Karron (Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), is conducting several studies on the reproduction and evolution of Mimulus ringens (sensu lato).

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

No information on efforts explicitly addressing management of this taxon is available. However, conservation activities are underway in Merrymeeting Bay, Maine, where the taxon is found. Projects in public education and land protection in the region, completed by Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (consortium) and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Common-garden experiments that elucidate shared characters of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus and Mimulus ringens will be necessary to resolve taxonomic uncertainty about the variety (reflected in its ""G5T2Q"" global conservation status) Basic field research is critically needed on all aspects of the ecology, habitat requirements, reproductive biology, herbivory, and demography of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Germination and propagation are relatively well understood for Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus (Brumback 1989).

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Nomenclature
Taxon Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus
Authority Fern.
Family Phrymaceae
CPC Number 2856
ITIS 529203
USDA MIRIC
Common Names Allegheny monkey-flower | estuarine monkey-flower | square-stemmed monkey-flower
Associated Scientific Names Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus
Distribution Maine, Quebec, and reported from Vermont.
State Rank
State State Rank
Maine S2
Quebec SNR
Vermont SNR
Habitat

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus is found in muddy, tidal, river embayments of Merrymeeting Bay, Maine and the St. Lawrence river in Quebec (Gleason and Cronquist 1991, Haines and Vining 1998, NatureServe 2001). Merrymeeting Bay is a large estuary that is tidal but receives little salt influence (Haines 2001). Such freshwater tidal wetlands contain many specialized and rare plant species that are able to tolerate twice-daily tidal fluctuations, and are highly productive areas in terms of plant and animal biomass. Haines (personal communication) has observed Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus growing on a """"mud and silt-covered cobble and ledge"""" in Merrymeeting Bay, associated with other herbaceous species normally found in freshwater tidal wetlands. Mimulus ringens (sensu lato) also occurs in Merrymeeting Bay, but typically on finer sediments. The species is also reported from Vermont, but no published information was available at the time of writing on its habitat there (NatureServe 2001).

Ecological Relationships

To date, nothing has been published specifically on the ecology of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus. It is known to be a rhizomatous perennials, but the degree to which it reproduces through vegetative perennation is unknown. Flowering occurs during July and August (Magee and Ahles 1999). The flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and bluish-purple; given the floral morphology and the behavior of congeners, likely pollinators are bees (Karron et al. 1995). Mimulus ringens (sensu lato) is capable of selfing or outcrossing. Inbreeding depression due to high rates of selfing has been noted in small populations of both Mimulus ringens (sensu lato) and Mimulus guttatus (Dudash et al. 1991, Carr and Dudash 1995, Karron et al. 1995, Carr and Dudash 1996, Carr et al. 1997). Isolated populations of Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus may be vulnerable to this phenomenon. Several species of Mimulus have been used as model systems for understanding rapid evolution in response to environmental change, including increased heavy metal pollution (Allen and Sheppard 1971, Macnair et al. 1993, Tilstone and Macnair 1997). The tendency of Mimulus species to proliferate evolutionarily into several varieties may reflect rapid microevolution, and creates challenges for conservation (Carr and Fenster 1994).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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