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 (attached above 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 (Calfora per Safford and Miller 2020)
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, found in southwestern Oregon
      • Grows at elevations between 150 and 4,000 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Nectar source for insects and hummingbirds
        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
            • Douglas has over 80 plant and animal species named in his honor, more than any other person
          • 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, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 28-31.

                    David Douglas. 1836. Frontispiece illustration to Vol. 2 of the Companion to the Botanical Magazine. 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, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 32-39.

                          Safford, H.D. and Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. [Manuscript accepted by] Madrono, California Botanical Society, Northridge, California.