Mirabilis nyctaginea (Wild Four O'Clock)
|Also known as:||Heart-leaved Four O'Clock|
|Family:||Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock)|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sandy or gravelly soil; fields, prairies, roadsides, rock outcrops, waste areas|
|Bloom season:||May - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 4 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: UPL NCNE: UPL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flattish clusters of 3 or more stalked flowers at the tips of branching stems and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are about ½ inch across, pale pink to deep magenta, 5 notched, petal-like sepals fused into a short tube. 3 to 5 long pink stamens with yellow tips and a pink style even longer than the stamens project from the center. Behind the flower is a saucer-shaped bract, hairless, green or tinged purplish, with 5 broadly triangular lobes that fold around the flower bud and spread out in fruit. The flowers open in late afternoon and close well before noon the next day.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are heart-shaped, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide with smooth but often wavy edges, oppositely attached and short-stalked. Stems feel square or ridged but is more rounded in the upper part of the plant. Stem color is light green, sometimes striped, and often reddish at the leaf nodes. The plant is mostly hairless but there may be scattered hairs on the leaves and upper stem, especially in and near the flower clusters.
Wild Four O'Clock is something of a weedy species, commonly found along roadsides, railroads, trail edges, fields, and even sidewalk cracks, though it may be found in higher grade habitats as well. It can take on a bushy appearance due to much branching. The flowers are very similar to the related Hairy Four O'Clock (Mirabilis albida), which is usually densely hairy all over.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?