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So why are they called monkey flowers? And other tales from the lab...

Posted by Sonya Jooma on 2011-07-18

A little over a week ago at my chalk talk, Dr. Grunwald asked me why Mimulus were called monkey flowers.  I was stumped!  As a matter of fact, my graduate mentor wasn't really sure either.

According to Wikipedia, it's because their flowers are shaped like a monkey's face.

But my favorite description of why reads: "The flowers have 5 petals fused at the base into a short tube and flaring at the mouth into two weakly-defined lips. To Linnaeus, these lips had the appearance of a smile or grin, earning the genus its name Mimulus after mimus for a grinning comic actor. The “smiling corolla” may also account for the common name of monkeyflower, for its fanciful resemblance to a grinning simian."

One day when I stepped into lab, I realized that someone (years ago) had taped their artistic rendition of this phenomenon on the whiteboard!


What do you think?

In other matters, my days in lab have been great.  Recently, I have been helping with a lot of DNA extractions and other work that mostly involves a lot of pipetting and waiting, but for me this time has been great for chatting with my graduate mentor and other members of the lab.  Interspersed with fun conversation is also a lot of learning-- now that we've begun genotyping some of our samples, there is a whole new wave of learning about how to analyze the data we receive from the sequencing facility.

As for the little Mimulus plants in the growth chamber... they seem to be flowering rather slowly, though steadily.  Unfortunately, the short time in lab this summer means that there won't be enough plants that flower in time for me to gather data for my original experiment.  Instead I am working with samples that my graduate mentor extracted for another experiment some time ago.  Instead of working on flowering time, I'm looking at the genetic basis for tolerance of serpentine soils, or nutrient-poor soils.  At first, I was pretty bummed that I wouldn't be able to follow through with the flowering time experiment this summer, but as I thought about the implications of my modified project, I realized that this just means that I get to learn even more about Mimulus. Awesome, right? 

I have really come to appreciate the constant flow of information that I'm exposed to in lab everyday.  The learning process really never ends, whether it involves something as simple as how monkey flowers got their name or something as complex as all the factors that could affect tolerance of serpentine soils.  It really makes up for all of the inevitable setbacks in lab.

6 weeks down, 2 to go!




Tagged: RF2011-Week6