attributes of an old-fashioned plant named Four o'clock have become
more important because of the changing environmental adversities
that have been experienced by the Texas gardening public. Texas
gardeners desperately need a plant which will :
1) flourish in periods of severe drought and water restrictions,
i.e., listed among the most drought tolerant : Cockscomb, Coreopsis,
Cosmos, Four o'clock, Moss Rose, Petunia, Purslane, Verbena, Zinnia
(2) will bloom in less than full sunlight situations, i.e., listed
among the most Shade or Semi-Shade Tolerant: Begonia, Bellflower,
Coleus, Dwarf Lobelia, Four O'CLOCK, Flowering Tobacco, Impatiens
(3) is deer and rabbit tolerant in that it is not a preferred
plant for deer and can recoup rapidly after being damaged by deer,
dogs, and other varmints,
(4) is fragrant,
(5) is a long-lived tuberous perennial and reseeding annual,
(6) is one of a very few hummingbird and butterfly plants for
shady growing conditions.
The skeptics may wonder why this wonderful plant has not been
promoted before now. The simple answer is that this plant is so
adapted and tenacious, it is sometimes considered invasive, i.e.,
one person's trash is another person's treasure OR familiarity
breeds discontent. Or maybe it is because the flowers do not stay
open all day -- flowers are not responding to an internal clock
but to temperature so the flowers open in the afternoon, about
4 o'clock. Usually, the flowers close the following morning, but
if the day is cool, they will stay open until the new flowers
open. In the Hellish summer temperatures of Texas, folks can only
enjoy their flowers in the late evening anyway and four o'clocks
provide beauty and fragrance during that cooler time of the day.
Flowers are trumpet-shaped, with the throat as much as 2 inches
long and 1 inch wide with five lobes. Flowers are produced in
shades of white, yellow and about every shade of pink imaginable.
The striped flowers appear to be infected with a virus disease
that creates the interesting patterns. The flower is an enigma
in that it completely lacks petals. The showy portion of the flower
is actually an outgrowth of the sepal, which in most plants is
green and leaf-like. The small leafy structure from which the
flower emerges is made of bracts formed from modified leaves.
The absence of petals is rare in the plant kingdom. Each flower
that is pollinated produces a pea-size black "seed." The seed
is not really a seed but a fruit. A true seed is produced inside
something -- for example, inside a pea pod or the capsule of a
petunia. In this case, each flower produces one seed that is enclosed
inside the ovary. So, in reality the "seed" is a "fruit."
Greg Grant of PLANTanswers.com Arcadia
Archives and former Bexar County Extension Horticulturist
writes that he dug the root of one he found in a little abandoned
yard that was dark hot pink and grew it for a year before he realized
it had NO fragrance. Greg's granny's plant had blooms that had
a fragrance as sweet as sugar! Greg has provided us with a fragrant
yellow-blooming plant from his Granny Ruth.
The Four o'clock name is a misnomer. The name Mirabilis was given
by Linnaeus in the middle 18th Century and shortened from the
Latin word "Admirabilis" which gives us "admirable" and is a reference
to the showy flowers. The name "jalapa" is due to botanical confusion.
The fleshy roots of this plant were thought to be the source of
"jalapa," a drug that was used in Central and South America as
a laxative. In reality, the jalapa was from a member of the morning
glory family. The common name -- Four o'clock -- is one of our
oldest garden flowers and was originally shipped back to Europe
by the Spanish conquistadors. The flowers are fragrant and produce
a subtle and delightful fragrance during the early evening hours
when the wind is not blowing. Hummingbirds and lunar moths both
seem to like to visit the flower for the abundance of nectar.
The Four o'clock -- also know as Belle De Nuit Blanche, Belle
De Nuit Rose, Belle De Nuit, Buenas Tardes, Dondiego De Noche,
Gecesefase, Geje Safa, Gulabbas, Heft Reng, Jalap, Lala A'Bbas,
Maravilla, Noche Buena, Tzu Mo Li, Bunga pukul empat, Kederat,
Kembang pagi sore, Kembang pukul, Nodja, Segerat, Ubat jerawat
-- also has the medicinal uses, actions and properties of antifungal,
antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, diuretic, alterative,
carminative, cathartic, hydragogue, purgative, stomachic, tonic
and vermifuge. The phytochemicals it contains are: 12-TRIACONSANONE,
ARABINOSE, BETA-AMYRIN, BETA-AMYRIN-ALPHA-L-RHAMNOSYL-O-BETA-D-GLUCOSIDE,
BETA-SITOSTEROL-BETA-D-GLUCOSIDE, N-HEXACOSANOL, TRIGONELLINE.
Its ethnobotanical uses are: abscess, alterative, boil, bruise,
carbuncle, carminative, cathartic, colic, cosmetic, diabetes,
diuretic, dropsy, gonorrhea, hepatitis, herpes, hydragogue, hypochondria,
itch, liver, pimple, purgative, rash, repellant (insect), sore,
splenitis, stomachic, strain, tonic, tumor, urticaria, uterosis,
vermifuge and wound.