Mirabilis albida (Hairy Four O'clock)
|Also known as:|
|Family:||Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock)|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; fields, prairies, railroads|
|Bloom season:||June - October|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Clusters of stalked flowers in groups of 3 or more at the tips of branching stems in the upper part of the plant. Flowers are white to rose pink, about ½ inch across, with 5 spreading, notched, petal-like sepals fused into a short tube. 3 or more long pink stamens with yellow tips and a long style project from the center. Behind the flower is a densely hairy, saucer-shaped bract with 5 broadly triangular lobes, the lobes folded around the flower bud and spreading out in fruit. The flowers open in late afternoon and close in the morning.
Leaves and stem:
Most leaves are in the lower part of the plant, below the flowering branches and are somewhat variable but typically up to 4 inches long and to 1½ inches wide, toothless, lance to narrowly egg-shaped with a pointed tip, tapering or rounded base, nearly erect to spreading, short stalked to stalkless. Leaves are hairy, especially along major veins on the underside, and edges tend to be wavy. Stems are a bit sticky, usually lined especially in the upper plant, and densely covered in spreading hairs though may be sparsely so near the base.
The flowers of Hairy Four O'Clock are much like those of the related Wild Four O'clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea), but the shape of the leaves, sticky upper stem, and overall hairiness of the plant easily distinguish it. The best time to see the plant in bloom is very early morning when the sun is just rising. The flowers start closing up soon after.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake and Rice Creek Trail Regional Parks in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken along Centerville Rd in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?