MIMULUS, Mimulus luteu
ALL the species of mimulus, or monkey flower, as it is very often called, of which there are about twenty known, are natives of the New World, and for the most part of its western coasts, their range being from Columbia in the north, to chili, south of the equator. They are all moisture-loving plants, and therefore in cultivating them that must be considered. They are, however, so accommodating that almost any kind of soil will suit them, if supplemented by the water-pot; but they like good living, nevertheless, and fine specimens cannot be grown without the aid of rich loamy soil. The plant before us may be treated as a hardy perennial, and left out to take care of itself in the open border; or it may be treated as an annual, and will flower the same season if the seed is sown in March. But better still is to treat it as a greenhouse plant, raising a fresh stock every year by seed sown in heat, and flowering them early in a warm greenhouse. By this treatment, with the plentiful use of water, very fine plants may be produced. We have seen them so grown for Covent Garden Market, and a house containing a few thousand of the plants in flower presented a very pretty appearance, the brilliant green leafage being agreeably varied by the gay flowers, which have a yellow ground and are grotesquely spotted.
There are in cultivation several distinct varieties of this mimulus, differing chiefly in the colour of the flowers. And there are several other species equally worthy the attention of the amateur florist, both because of their beauty and the extreme simplicity of the cultivation they require, the point of chief importance being to indulge their love of moisture. M. variegatus has flowers curiously painted purple and yellow; M. roseus has flowers of a bright rose, in some degree resembling the newer kinds of begonia; M. cardinalis has scarlet flowers; and M. cupreus is of the colour of copper when just acquiring the dulness that follows soon after polishing. All these ripen seed in plenty, and may be most easily multiplied; but they may also be propagated from cuttings, or by division of the somewhat fleshy roots.
The best known of the family is the odorous musk plant (M. moschatus), a delightful occupant of the cottage window, and a most important plant at a cottagers' flower show. This is but rarely seen in the garden, but it is a good plant to occupy part of a border near a summer-house, in company with such things as the lily of the valley and the woodruff, to diffuse a delightful perfume. In common with these favourites, the musk has but to be left alone and it will reappear with them in the spring, and grow thriftily, provided only it can obtain enough moisture. For growing in pots, the old-fashioned common musk is not now good enough, a variety with larger flowers and a finer habit of growth having been introduced through Messrs. Harrison, of Leicester. This is as fragrant as the original, and immensely superior in all other respects. This sort is known as "Harrison's musk."
The generic name mimulus refers to the gaping mouth of the flower, which may be likened to that of an ape--hence its more homely name of monkey flower. The fig-worts, to which order it belongs, are invariably characterised by the irregularity of the corolla, of which we have interesting examples in the mullein and the calceolaria. It will be observed in the figure that the calyx is also irregular, one of the toothed lobes being longer than the rest. All the species are remarkable for the irritability of the stigma. The two lobes lie rather wide of each other when not irritated, but if touched with a bristle they instantly close. This movement is, no doubt, connected with the process of fertilisation, and is a parallel to that of the berberis flower, the stamens of which suddenly clasp the stigma when touched at the base of the filaments with a bristle or needle.
The yellow mimulus is used in Peru as a pot-herb, and probably all the species are capable of a similar appropriation. The figwort family, however, is not to be hastily looked to for the supply of edible vegetables, for here we find the nauseous and narcotic foxglove, the bitter snapdragon, and the astringent speedwell--
"That lifts its eye of the softest blue
To the younger sky of the selfsame hue."
But if we do not get much food for the body out of the figworts, they do not lack in food for the soul, very many of the genera being renowned for beauty, whether as way-side weeds or as valued occupants of the garden.
The following lines by Mr. W. Roscoe may suitably follow these remarks:--
"God of the changeful year!--amidst the glow
Of strength and beauty and transcendant grace,
Which on the mountain heights, or deep below
In sheltered vales, and each sequestered place,
Thy forms of vegetable life assume;
--Whether thy pines, with giant arms displayed,
Brave the cold north, or wrapt in eastern gloom,
Thy trackless forests sweep a world of shade;--
Or whether, scenting ocean's heaving breast,
Thy odoriferous isles innumerous rise,
Or under various lighter forms imprest,
Of fruits and flowers, Thy works delight our eyes;--
God of all life! whatever those forms may be,
O may they all unite in praising Thee;"
Title: MIMULUS, Mimulus luteu Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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