Mimulus repens – A Sea of Purple


Creeping Mimulus repens putting on a show.

Creeping Mimulus repens putting on a show at Kaituna Lagoon.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere at the moment, you’re bound to notice the vast spread of purple around various parts of the lake shore.

On close inspection, you’ll find a closely-woven carpet of tiny, pea-like flowers. This is Mimulus repens, commonly known by a variety of names including Native Musk, Māori Musk,  the New Zealand Monkey flower or the Native Monkey flower.


This pretty plant is, as the name suggests, indigenous to New Zealand. It enjoys a coastal habitat – usually at the back of salt marshes and estuaries, where it can be permanently damp. It also thrives in soggy, saline mud or in silt locations that are periodically flooded during high, spring or king tides.


Mimulus repens, detail.

Mimulus repens, detail.

It’s a remarkable little plant in fact, for its ability to survive being drowned for long periods of high water, being frozen in winter, baked completely dry in high summer and then, when conditions are right (usually from September through February), it will burst into masses of flowers. It bears fruit from November to May.

It’s a succulent, distinctive mat-forming perennial herb that carries a threat status of ‘Naturally Uncommon’ – and its current displays are definitely worth seeing.

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