Mirabilis nyctaginea (Wild Four O'Clock)

Plant Info
Also known as: Heart-leaved Four O'Clock
Family:Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The bract spreads out and dries to light greenish brown as fruit develops. Fruit is a hard grayish brown seed about ¼ inch long with 5 ribs; it is densely short-hairy.


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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Susan - Milaca, Mille Lacs County
on: 2011-07-01 10:29:37

Nice site! Just utilized it to positively ID mirabilis nyctaginea I found on a roadside. Very helpful for quick identification. The plant I found is expressing a much deeper darker purple flower but it is definitely a wild heart-leaf four o'clock. It is not a plant I see frequently in Mille Lacs County. It seems to keep to the edge of roadsides.

Posted by: Robyn - Litchfield
on: 2011-09-05 20:54:02

This plant is growing all over Litchfield. It has the most beautiful pink flowers.

Posted by: Andy - Bloomington
on: 2013-06-19 16:28:18

Found a solitary plant in an un-mown section of park across from our house. Located 10-15 feet from a pond edge. Surprised and pleased to find a native!

Posted by: Anne - In my yard in south Minneapolis
on: 2013-07-07 14:09:46

The plant has become entrenched along my house's south-facing foundation. It's hard to get rid of, because the stem breaks off at ground level so you can't pull it up. I finally started digging and was amazed at the size of the root-- carrot-shaped, over a foot long and a couple of inches across.

Posted by: Jenny - Dassel, Lake Washington
on: 2013-08-20 11:17:56

This one is new to me. We saw this yesterday, mid-August on the roadside on the south side of Lake Washington. Thanks for the info. Wildflowers are a passion of my since moving to east central Minnesota near the Kettle River in 1995. Love it!! Thanks!!!

Posted by: Anne - Saint Paul
on: 2013-09-14 14:49:47

The wild four o'clocks are horrible. I want to and cannot get rid of them. I have tried: Roundup, burning, boiling water, salt, vinegar, cutting off seeds b4 they drop and even getting the area really really muddy and digging them up. NOTHING has worked. IF anyone has a solution, PLEASE let me know. I cannot plant anything near them and they look like horrible weeds in front of the house where I want to plant. They are also said to ward off Japanese Beetles, but they don't at all.

Posted by: Gabriel - South Minneapolis
on: 2015-06-21 22:37:09

I brought this plant into my yard, and regretted it when I discovered how weedy it is. The stems are brittle and the taproot is thick and deep. A little-known fact: the flowers are pleasantly fragrant, but only in the evening when the sun is low in the sky. Earlier in the day, they don't have any smell. You have to brave the mosquitoes to go out and sniff them.

Posted by: Larry - Dodge County
on: 2015-08-05 11:54:37

I photographed wild four o'clock in the Iron Horse Prairie Scientific and Natural Area south of Hayfield. Merilee McNeilus identified it for me after the photo ran in our newspaper. Joel Wagar at Rice Lake State Park confirmed the identification. Iron Horse is a great place to see native plants you probably won't commonly see, though this isn't apparently an uncommon one.

Posted by: Tib - Ramsey County, St Paul, Grand Hill
on: 2016-06-02 11:48:56

They seem to be seeding their way for two clocks along Grand Hill, growing in clumps and singles at the bases of retaining walls. They are lovely, and were fully open both last night and at 9 this morning, so their time-telling talents are overstated :-)

Posted by: Deborah - Laporte (Hubbard County/ Lakeport Township)
on: 2016-06-19 17:07:01

Several healthy and blooming plants on the south side of the house. I think that I will have a problem getting rid of them. Each year I pull some and they come back with more the next.

Posted by: Andrea - Park Point, Duluth
on: 2016-06-25 18:43:07

In between cracks in sidewalk.

Posted by: Kay - About 5miles west of Sauk Centre near the Lake Wobegon Trail
on: 2016-07-07 23:13:23

I have never seen this variety before, with the greenish flowers, pretty.

Posted by: Emily - Upper Sioux Agency State Park - Yellow Medicine County
on: 2016-07-10 14:04:01

I just found this plant at USASP. I believe your map is missing Yellow Medicine County. Let me know if you would like pictures and coordinates for proof.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-10 18:10:36

Emily, the best way to update county distributions is to submit a specimen to the Bell Herbarium, then it becomes part of the official record. Our maps will be updated accordingly.

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