Feature

The allure of monkeyflowers

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Science  30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6456, pp. 854-857
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6456.854

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Summary

Yaowu Yuan's passion for monkeyflowers began with a slideshow of mutants. The variety of their blossoms convinced him he could study these weeds to understand flower development in general. He's one of a growing number of biologists to have fallen under the spell of these plants, which can thrive in environments too harsh for most plants. Like plant scientists' traditional lab workhorse, the mustard weed Arabidopsis thaliana, monkeyflowers grow fast, produce a lot of seeds, and have a simple genome—appealing traits for lab studies. But they also have a lot more variety. Some researchers are exploring monkeyflowers' own unusual adaptations. But others are turning them into a window on widespread biological processes, such as the genetic basis of color patterns or how plants to evolve more rapidly than animals. The field may even have its first serious controversy: Some researchers are rejecting a recent revision of the monkeyflower family tree.

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