CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus

John A. Lynch

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus

Common Names: 
Allegheny monkey-flower, estuarine monkey-flower, square-stemmed monkey-flower
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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Mimulus ringens var. colpophilusenlarge
Photographer: John A. Lynch
Image Owner: New England Wildflower Society

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus is Not Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.

Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus

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.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus
  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).

  Maine, Quebec, and reported from Vermont.

Number Left
  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.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Maine S2 SC 7/1/1999  
  United States N2 12/17/1994  
  Vermont SR  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

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).

  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 estuaries where Mimulus ringens var. colpophilus occurs
Conversion of wetlands (dredging, water diversion, and filling)
Sea-level rise with accompanying increases in salinity
Inbreeding depression
Potential competition from invasive plant species common to wetlands, including purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and common reed (Phragmites australis)

Current Research Summary
  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).

Current Management Summary
  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.

Research Management Needs
  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

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


Books (Single Authors)

Haines, A.; Vining, T.F. 1999. Flora of Maine. Bar Harbor, Maine: V. F. Thomas Company. 847p.

Magee, D.W.; Ahles, H.E. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press.

Conference Proceedings

Allen, W.R.; Sheppard, P.M. Copper tolerance in some Californian populations of the monkey flower, Mimulus guttatus. 177. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.; 1971. p 177-196.

Electronic Sources

NatureServe. (2008). NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. [Internet].Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. Accessed: (June 17, 2008).

Journal Articles

Brumback, W.E. 1989. Notes on propagation of rare New England species. Rhodora. 91: 154-162.

Carr, D.E.; Dudash, M.R. 1995. Inbreeding depression under a competitive regime in Mimulus guttatus: consequences for potential male and female function. Heredity. 75: 437-445.

Carr, D.E.; Dudash, M.R. 1996. Inbreeding depression in two species of Mimulus (Scrophulariaceae) with contrasting mating systems. American Journal of Botany. 83: 586-593.

Carr, D.E.; Fenster, C.B. 1994. Levels of genetic variation and covariation for Mimulus (Scrophulariaceae) floral traits. Heredity. 72: 606-618.

Carr, D.E.; Fenster, C.B.; Dudash, M.R. 1997. The relationship between mating-system characters and inbreeding depression in Mimulus guttatus. Evolution. 51: 54-65.

Dudash, M.R.; Carr, D.E.; Fenster, C.B. 1997. Five generations of enforced selfing and outcrossing in Mimulus guttatus: Inbreeding depression variation at the population and family level. Evolution. 51: 363-372.

Iyer, N.P. Cytogenetics of Mimulus alatus and Mimulus ringens. Masters Abstracts International. 19-01: 0050.

Karron, J.D.; Jackson, R.T.; Thumser, N.N. 1997. Outcrossing rates of individual Mimulus ringens genets are correlated with anther-stigma separation. Heredity. 79: 365-370.

Karron, J.D.; Thumser, N.N.; Tucker, R.; Hessenauer, A.J. 1995. The influence of population density on outcrossing rates in Mimulus ringens. Heredity. 75: 175-180.

Karron, J.D.; Tucker, R.; Thumser, N.N.; Reinartz, J.A. 1995. Comparison of pollinator flight movements and gene dispersal patterns in Mimulus ringens. Heredity. 75: 612-617.

Macnair, M.R.; Smith, S.E.; Cumbes, Q.J. 1993. Heritability and distribution of variation in degree of copper tolerance in Mimulus guttatus at Copperopolis, California. Heredity. 71: 445-455.

Sharma, V. Habitats of the Monkeyflowers Mimulus alatus and Mimulus ringens on the Hudson River. Masters Abstracts International. 31-04

Tilstone, G.H.; Macnair, M.R. 1997. The consequence of selection for copper tolerance on the uptake and accumulation of copper in Mimulus guttatus. Annals of Botany. 80: 747-751.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.


Ewing, B.C. 2001. Mimulus moschatus Dougl. ex Lindl. (Musk Flower) Conservation and Research Plan. Framingham, Massachusetts: New England Wild Flower Society.

Haines, A. 2001. Eriocaulon parkeri (Parker's Pipewort) Conservation and Research Plan. Framingham, MA: New England Wild Flower Society. p.45+ iii.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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