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 and is named Mirabilis as wonderful and Jalapa the name of the capital of Veracruz. It is part of the Nyctaginaceae family of plants. It was named by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist in 1753. It is a herbaceous perennial that can grow to 1m or 3ft. However, it is grown as an annual and as it self seeds it keeps growing every year. After flowering, it produces green-colored one-seeded fruits that mature to black. Mirabilis jalapa is native to tropical Central and South America.
The funnel-shaped flowers of the Mirabilis jalapa plant live for one day but 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.
Plant it in the sun through the leaves don’t like the heat and can wither and then go back to normal in the evening. Use a well-draining, humus-rich soil. Mirabilis jalapa seeds usually mature fast. Mirabilis jalapa is used in food coloring a red dye is created that is used for cakes and jellies. The plant has also been used in traditional medicine for a diuretic or treats inflammation. In Brazil, dried powder of Mirabilis jalapa flowers are sniffed to help with headache, and in Peru, a juice from the flowers is used to treat Herpes. In Mexico, the plant is used to make medicine to treat dysentery, infected wound, or scorpion stings.