Mirabilis Jalapa

Four O'clock FlowersWonder of all Time: Four O’ Clock Flowers

Four O’ Clock flower or Mirabilis jalapa or Marvel-of-peru opens in the late afternoon, and continues to bloom through the night.  Though, it is not the time that makes the flower bloom, it is the drop in the day temperature that pushes the flower to blossom. If it is a cloudy day, the flower may bloom even past dawn.

The fragrance of the flower is more intense and noticeable during the warm period of the day.  Usually, the flowers are found in yellow, pink and white colors but you can find different combination of flowers growing on the same single four O’ clock plant!

Not just this, the color changing phenomena of the four o’clock flowers has also intrigued flower enthusiasts and botanists all over the world. The yellow flowers change into dark pink flowers by the time of maturation.  The white flowers change their color into light violet into when the flowers matures.

Moreover, the petals don’t make flowers. The flowers are formed by the pigmented calyx, which modifies to form the structure of a flower. The flower patterns are divided into sectors, flakes and spots.

Mirabilis Jalapa Flower Meaning

A member of mirabilis, it is also known as the marvel of Peru.  Mirabilis is a Latin word and means wonderful.  It is believed that Aztecs cultivated this plant for ornamental and medicinal properties and then it was exported from Peru in the year 1540. The plant originally is native of tropical South America but has taken quite a liking to the warm and temperate areas.   The frost makes it dead and by the time it is spring, the plant re-grows from the tuberous roots.  The plant self-seeds and needs proper pruning, because if unattended it can turn your garden into a mess by sabotaging the growth of other plants and leaving the garden with its overwhelming scent.

It prefers full sun to grow.

Mirabilis jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa

Mirabilis jalapaFragrance of Mirabilis or 4 O’ Clock Flowers

The fragrance of flower is sweet and intense. The flowers’ fragrance remains throughout the night and by the dawn, the flower wilts. The next flowers bloom subsequently next day.  The pollination of the flower is done by nocturnal long-tongued moths, such as sphinx or hawk.  The moths are attracted by its fragrance. There are lots of hybrid species of 4 O’ Clock plants available that won’t have smell at all or come with a very faint fragrance. So, if you are breeding mirabilis just for their fragrance, make sure that you get organic and pure breed.

4 O’ Clock FlowersTrivia about Mirabilis Jalapa:

  • Mirabilis Flowers are nowadays used as food coloring agent. An edible crimson dye is made from the flower to give the desired red color to cakes and jellies.
  • Leaves can be used as emergency food for survival.
  • The flowers are used in textile industry in India for dying handloom products.
  • The plant is known for its purgative, antiseptic and diuretic properties. The roots of the plant are believed to be aphrodisiac.
  • Mirabilis was used by Carl Correns for his genetic studies on cytoplasmic inheritance. The cross breeding of white mirabilis flowers and red mirabilis flowers breeds pink flowers and not red, proving Mendel’s Law of Incomplete Dominance.
  • It is called ‘putita’ or ‘little hooker’ in Chile, given that the flower is at its blooming best during evening and comes out in the night.
  • The seeds are believed to be extremely poisonous.
  • The intense fragrance also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.