Four o'clocks are flowers I've loved since childhood.
And, since I was a child, what I liked best were the seeds. Big, round with a bulge at one side, such fun to collect! You can see them in the photo below, round black shapes, for example at the base of the flower in the center.
|four o'clocks with seeds|
Aren't four o'clock seeds cool? About 1/4" long, easy for small fingers to handle.
|four o'clock seeds, Mirabilis jalapa|
I collected them, saved them, and then planted my seeds the next year. Very satisfying.
The four o'clocks commonly grown as annuals in temperate gardens are Mirabilis jalapa (four o'clock family Nyctaginaceae). They've been popular garden flowers for easily 400 years. Gerard's Herbal (1633) describes them, under the English name marvel of Peru. That is probably their oldest common name, and currently the one the USDA Plants and Missouri Plant Finder websites use; a very flattering name!
Four o'clock is a more recent common name. It reflects their flowering time. The flowers open about 4:00 in the afternoon. The photo above and especially the one below were obviously taken before four o'clock (9 am in fact).
|four o'clocks, Mirabilis jalapa|
|four o'clock, marvel of Peru, Mirabilis jalapa|
|big four o'clock plants|
Gerard, J. 1633. The Herbal or General History of Plants. Dover facsimilie edition 1975, Dover Publications, New York.
Marten, L.C. 1987. Garden Flower Folklore. The Globe Pequot Press. Chester, CT.
Missouri Plant Finder. Mirabilis jalapa. missouriplantfinder.org link Accessed 11/13/21.
Science Learning Hub. Mendel's experiments. sciencelearn.org link Accessed 11/13/21.
Showalter, H.M. 1934. Self flower-color inhertiance and mutation in Mirabilis jalapa L. Genetics. 19 (6): 568-580.
Wikipedia. Mirabilis jalapa. wikipedia.org link Accessed 11/13/21.
Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist