According to my online dictionary, peregrine has two meanings: (1) foreign (2) roving or wandering. Which made it a perfect choice for the name of a new species of Monkey flower – Mimulus peregrinus – “the wanderer”. Announced in July 2012, this was not simply a newly DISCOVERED species but a “NEW SPECIES”, an example of evolution in action! According to Dr. Mario Vallejo-Marin, a Scottish evolutionary plant biologist, “It’s rare to discover a newly evolved species.”
The discovery occurred in 2011. Dr. Vallejo-Marin was “perigrinating” when he “found the handsome yellow flower while on a walk through southern Scotland with his family”. But the actual story began years ago, sometime in the mid-1800’s, when travellers brought “foreign” species of monkey flower back to the UK. These “peregrine” species were planted in English flower gardens and eventually they “wandered away” to live in the wild.
In the wild, these two species hybridized. Now – most hybrids are infertile, that is, they cannot reproduce. As an example of this, think of a mule, which is a hybrid between a horse and a donkey. Mules are sterile; they do not reproduce.
But this Monkey flower hybrid was not sterile. It was fertile – able to interbreed and produce fertile offspring – which is one of the defining characteristics of a species. We’re not sure exactly when this occurred, but Dr. Vallejo-Marin believes this most likely happened sometime within the last couple of decades.
So what does this have to do with our valley? Well, when these “foreign” species of monkey flowers were brought to the UK, one species, Mimulus luteus, came from the Andes Mountains of South America. And the other? It came from the U.S. You can find them growing in our Santa Clarita Valley.
Around here it’s known as Seep Monkey Flower or Yellow Monkey Flower (Mimulus guttatus). (Guttate means drops, which probably refers to the red spots found on the petals.) It’s a riparian flower, which grows along rivers and creeks, and generally blossoms in April, May and June.
Here’s one I found growing in Elsmere Canyon. Click here for a picture of Mimulus peregrinus and compare it to the Mimulus guttatus photo below. Notice the family resemblance?
So now I’d like to leave you with my wish for the New Year: May you be blessed with the opportunity to take something from your past and use it to create something beautiful.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, January 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30.
Saturday mornings, January 5 & 19.
Saturday, January 19, 1:00-3:00 PM. “Native American Use of Plants” at East/Rice Canyon. Meet in the parking lot at the gate. Click here for a map and directions.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces: http://hikesantaclarita.com/.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders. http://bikesantaclarita.com
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Or check out our Facebook page – L.A. Mountains.