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Monkey musk is a soft herb that grows up to 60cm tall, forming bright-green leafy clumps or large masses. It has thick stems that are occasionally branched. The oval leaves are opposite, up to 12 x 8cm long, usually hairless, and bright green with toothed edges. Monkey musk has yellow flowers with red spots on the bearded lower lip. Seed capsules are 1cm long, with many patterned seeds.
Monkey musk is a wetland plant. It grows along the margins of streams, rivers, drains, lakes and wetlands but it can also grow partially submerged in water, with its foliage floating on the water surface. It will also occur on damp, disturbed ground away from wetlands. Due to its relatively high light demand, it is out-competed by taller perennial or woody plants.
Monkey musk can significantly alter the structure of riparian plant communities. It may out-compete native plants and has the potential to choke channels and impede drainage.
Monkey musk readily breaks in fast-flowing water and even small fragments have high survival, regeneration and colonisation rates. It produces large numbers of small seeds, which germinate readily both in water and on sand. Monkey musk can become dominant in an area and spread widely due to its ability to propagate from both plant fragments and seed, and for both of these methods to occur at different times during the year.