Purple Mouse-ears

Purple Mouse-ears © AFengler

Douglas’s Monkeyflower, Brownies
Diplacus douglasii

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae)
  • Diminutive, upright annual herb
  • Leaves
    • Basal and ovate
    • Upperside shiny green
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of 1-5 flowers from the leaf base
      • Comparatively long flower tube on a stubby pedicel (stalk of a single flower)
    • Bilaterally-symmetrical flower of 5 fused petals forming a lobed pouch
      • Upper 2 lobes are prominent (suggesting mouse ears)
      • Lower 3 lobes are extremely reduced
    • Magenta, with a golden-striped throat
    • Stamens (male flower parts) in 2 groups of 4, with orange pollen
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)
  • Height to 1.6 in.
Diminutive Flower © KKorbholz


  • Native to California
    • Grows in chaparral and foothill woodlands, on bare clay, serpentine, or granitic soils, “generally along upper banks of small creeks” (Jepson)
    • 65-74% of plants occur on ultramafic soils, e.g. serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calflora per Safford and Miller 2020)
    • See Serpentine Grassland for more about Edgewood’s serpentine soil and the unique communities it supports
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, found in southwestern Oregon
  • Grows at elevations between 150 and 4,000 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Nectar source for insects and hummingbirds
  • No human uses found for this species
David Douglas

Name Derivation

  • Diplacus (DIP-la-kus) – from the Greek di, “two,” and plax/plakos, “a disk,” referring to the double placenta of the seed capsule (Ritter 2015)
  • douglasii (DUG-las-ee-eye) – named for David Douglas (1798-1834), Scottish botanist and collector
    • Over 80 scientific names of plants and animals honor Douglas, more than any other person
    • At Edgewood, 9 scientific plant names honor Douglas, e.g. blue oak (Quercus douglasii) and California mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), as well as several common names, e.g. Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) and Douglas’ microseris (Microseris douglasii ssp. douglasii)
  • Purple mouse-ears – for the 2 prominent upper lobes of the flower


  • Previously included in the Figwort family and the Mimulus genus
  • Individual flower blooms for only 1 to 2 days
  • Pollinated by insects when flower is open, or buds may remain closed and self-pollinate (cleistogamous) when conditions are unfavorable
    • Cleistogamy is a unique survival approach, especially beneficial for an annual plant
      • Production of seed occurs without the need of an outside pollinator
      • Botanical term is derived from the Greek kleistós, “closed,” and gamos, “marriage”

ID Tips

  • When in bloom, this tiny plant can’t be confused with any other Edgewood flower
    • May require intense searching to find, but it’s always worth the effort!  

At Edgewood

  • Grows in chaparral and serpentine barrens
  • Flowers February – April

See General References

Specific References

Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine soils and why they limit plant survival and growth. Fremontia 38/39: 28-31.

David Douglas [Frontispiece illustration]. 1836.  W.J. Hooker. Companion to the Botanical Magazine (Vol. 2). Public Domain.

Ritter, M. 2018. California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. Pacific Street Publishing, San Luis Obispo, California.

Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine endemism of the California flora. Fremontia 38/39: 32-39.

Safford, H.D. and J.E.D. Miller. 2020. An updated database of serpentine endemism in the California flora. Madroño 67(2): 85-104. BioOne Complete. PDF hosted by San Diego State University, San Diego, California.