Yellowstone Natural History: Yellow Monkey Flower

Would you expect there to be something like a yellow monkey flower in Yellowstone National Park? Probably not.

And yet, the yellow monkey flower not only blooms in Yellowstone, it seems to really enjoy it. The hot springs help; the yellow monkey flower is already a prodigious bloomer, but the continuous presence of hot water can make these flowers bloom even in winter!

Yellowstone, therefore, full of features like Terrace Spring (shown below) is quite hospitable for these flowers.

Besides adorning Yellowstone National Park, the yellow monkey flower is also useful as a model for plant evolution. A whole website, in point of fact, is dedicated to the yellow monkey flower’s genomic scheme, along with some of its fellows.


Basic Facts

  • Scientific name: Mimulus guttatus.
  • Mimulus translates to “mimic actor,” guttatus means “spotted/speckled.
  • Belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family, which includes dwarf snapdragon, figwort, desert foxglove and mullein.
  • Variable in shape and size.
  • Flowers and leaves grow opposite from stems.


  • Prefer mountainous terrain near moist to wet “seeps” i.e. water sources.
  • Found throughout Western North America starting from the Dakotas and Nebraska, all the way down to Mexico and up to Alaska.
  • Can also be found in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.


  • Grows perennially i.e. for several years or more, indefinitely.
  • Blooms between early spring and late fall.
  • Has been known to bloom in winter.


  • Corollas (group of petals) are yellow and tubular.
  • Petals are two-lipped, five-lobed with two ridges running from the lower lip into the throat.
  • Throat is spotted red.
  • Grow to be one to two inches long.


  • Pollinated by bees.
  • When a bee touches the flowers’ lobes, they “pinch” the bee.
  • This holds the pollen firmly and ensures, when the bee leaves, the plant won’t be self-pollinated.

Salad Days

  • The plant is edible, sometimes eaten raw in salads.
  • As a salad green/additive, it’s a little bitter, however.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

Check Also

Paradise Valley

Victory for Opponents in Battle Against Gold Mining Exploration in Paradise Valley

Opponents of a proposed mine just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana’s Paradise Valley won a …