But sometimes it's definitely more like receiving an especially charming gift. That's how I felt when I saw this little wisp of yellow flowers growing out of a crevice in the rockery out front. I first noticed it last year and finally got a chance to look at it more closely when it sprouted again this year.
I hadn't planted it in this seemingly inauspicious spot. And usually the only wild plants that get a foothold in the rockery are ferns (welcome) and horsetails gone haywire (unwelcome). It looked so delicate it seemed improbable that it could muscle out a little space for itself in this rocky, sunbaked wall.
But Phinney Hill does have a multitude of underground springs trickling through it. They gurgle above ground in some places (a nearby street has a channel down one side specifically to allow the spring to flow downhill into a storm drain). Many of the plants that appear to be growing in unlikely places are tapping into this hidden source of moisture, which is why lush ferns are able to grow at the base of our rockery.
It got its odd name, according to this book, because apparently the flowers have "grinning, apelike faces" in the eyes of some beholders. The genus name, Mimulus, echoes this observation: it refers to a buffoon or "actor in a farce or mime."
evolutionary studies, helping to tease out the intricacies of genetic variation and inheritance.
Native Americans used the plant's leaves to make teas and ate them, raw or cooked, in their meals. Explorers and "settlers" picked up on this use of the plant, too.
When Lewis and Clark encountered monkey-flowers in their western travels, they added them to their stash of samples to bring back East. Lewis specifically added yellow monkey-flowers he collected along the Clarks River, a tributary of the Blackfoot River, in Montana on July 4, 1806.
Today, that little flowers resides in the Lewis & Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. It is probably one of the world's most adventurous monkey-flowers: According to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website, "Lewis's collection of common monkeyflower traveled over Lewis & Clark Pass, down the Missouri River and eventually made its way to St. Louis and then to Philadelphia."
After reading that, I feel as if the monkey-flower growing in my rockery is puffing itself up and saying, like Pigpen in regard to the cloud of dust around him upon hearing it may be soil that was trod on by Nebuchadnezzar, "Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn't it?"