Mirabilis jalapa is also known as the Marvel of Peru, Michaela Petit’s Four o’Clock, or the Four o’clock Flower. Mirabilis jalapa was cultivated by Aztecs. It is named “Mirabilis” meaning “wonderful” and “Jalapa” the name of the capital of Veracruz. Mirabilis jalapa is native to tropical Central and South America.
Mirabilis jalapa is part of the Nyctaginaceae family of plants. It was named by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist in 1753. It is a herbaceous perennial. It grows to 1m or 3ft. However, it is grown as an annual. As it self seeds it keeps appearing every year. Mirabilis jalapa produces green-colored one-seeded fruit that matures to black.
The funnel-shaped flowers of the Mirabilis jalapa plant live for one day. They don’t open up until 4 in the afternoon or a bit later. They remain open throughout the night and then close and die by morning light. They are fragrant during the night.
Mirabilis jalapa produces flowers in many colors from white, to yellow, pink, purple, and red. Interestingly Mirabilis jalapa can produce different colored flowers on the same plant. The flowers are not formed by petals but they are pigmented calyx.
How to grow Mirabilis jalapa:
Grow it in the sun. Through the leaves don’t like the heat. They wither but go back to normal when it cools in the evening. Plant Mirabilis jalapa in well-draining, humus-rich soil. Mirabilis jalapa seeds usually mature fast.
Mirabilis jalapa is used in food and traditional medicine:
A food coloring is made from Mirabilis jalapa. They make a red dye that is used for cakes and jellies. In traditional medicine, they use Mirabilis jalapa as a diuretic or to treat inflammation.
In Brazil, they sniff dried powder of Mirabilis jalapa flowers to help with headaches. In Peru, they use a juice made from the flowers to treat Herpes. In Mexico, they treat dysentery, infected wound, or scorpion stings.