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.

Posted by: Carrollyn - Belle Plaine
on: 2019-06-03 20:47:51

I'm a little bit sad that this is a native plant and pollinator! It's choking out a ton of my desirable perennials and now I feel bad trying to get rid of it!

Posted by: Stephanie Eastwood - Lafayette County, in SW Wisconsin
on: 2019-06-30 01:04:27

Just ID'd this as the plant spreading along a neighbor's house wall in a neglected flower bed. In the State of Washington, wild four o'clock is listed as a noxious weed because it spreads rapidly in disturbed areas and takes over crop land. Their advice to people trying to get rid of it: don't pull--broken root branches will sprout more stems. Spade it up completely, or mow/cut it down every so often, so it doesnt go to seed, and it will eventually use up its energy. https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/wild-four-oclock Illinois wildflowers site says the seeds and roots are poisonous.

Posted by: Jody Purrington - Duluth
on: 2020-09-05 11:00:59

I found this plant growing along neglected sidewalks in Duluth, MN, in sand, gravel (and salt?) plowed from the streets in winter. I'm happy to see it's a native plant. I'm going to try going it from seed in my yard, which I'm trying to convert to wildflowers.

Posted by: Wendy Knox - Minneapolis
on: 2021-06-04 17:56:22

This has become totally invasive in my yard, spreading from one garden to another! Can't pull us the stubborn taproot and it keeps spreading and choking out other plants! Wish there was some organic way to get rid of it!

Posted by: Barb Moor - South Minneapolis
on: 2021-07-17 11:22:28

spindly plant ~6" between 2"opposite leaves. showed up in alley 2 years ago, 3/4" 5 attached petals were blue, last year green like stem(insignificant), this year pink to green??? 3-4 ft tall. Nice in lg open area or held up with other plants, main stems square, smell nice when broken. Is smoke toxic when burned? Just keep pulling to get rid

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2021-09-13 19:17:24

Stephanie Eastwood, this may be noxious to the state of Washington, but not necessarily to MN where it is a native. I generally feel there is a purpose to all native plants. Some are more prolific because they may not last long or have to feed a large number of insects. Four O'clocks grow on my beach and I have allowed them to grow at this chosen place because they are a favorite of the Hawk Moth.

Posted by: DE Lambert - Frogtown/ Summit U
on: 2021-10-05 11:09:43

Grows all over my back yard.

Posted by: Jean Williams - Minneapolis
on: 2021-12-06 14:15:42

Silly to brand a plant "noxious" because it does well on disturbed sites. The plant isn't responsible for having its evolution be about pleasing farmers and developers. Unfortunately, some states are doing that with native thistles, too. Such plants have high wildlife value but apparently that's not important. Who needs wildlife, right? All anyone needs is corn and soybeans.

Posted by: Courtney - Champlin
on: 2022-06-28 21:05:40

Such a beautiful plant - I have one growing right by my gardens in my backyard. I've never seen this before but I plan on leaving it for the pollinators to enjoy too :)

Posted by: Sandra Sedivy - Mid-Ottertail County
on: 2022-07-09 01:00:11

Today I jdiscovered several of these plant growing between some rocks on our beach. I have never seen them before, so I was surprised. The flowers weren't open, and the plants are 18-20" tall. I assume they'll get taller. I'm trying to decide what to do about them since they're on the beach and supposedly hard to remove. I'm concerned they may become problematic if they spread prolifically.

Posted by: Jordon - Sioux Falls, SD (9 miles from MN border)
on: 2022-08-24 14:57:08

I have a 2x6 ft section between a fence line and a bricked patio that has completely filled with these. I think they are beautiful and plan on keeping them. It's interesting seeing the comments over the years above and how people are slowly coming around to the idea of rewilding - I for one would much rather have this than a plot of rocks or grass.

Posted by: Sage - Minneapolis
on: 2023-06-08 12:16:30

I found a few of these growing in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. A few were growing right next to concrete steps, others were growing in grassy areas dominated by invasive species. Pretty flowers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is native to MN, since most of the plants in the park are not.

Posted by: Nancy Huehl - Tyler MN
on: 2023-06-13 13:05:35

Since this is a native species plant is it beneficial to native pollinators and soil development or soil preservation. I have a vacant lot where a building was torn down and it was back filled with gravel this was done before I purchased it. One of the few plants to do quite well on this vacant lot is what I now know to be wild floral clock. I do take the plant down once it begins seed production. Location Lincoln Co MN

Posted by: Janet Craig - Southern-most part of Anoka County
on: 2023-06-19 10:38:33

This may be a MN native plant, and I agree it is beautiful, but it will crowd out everything, and it;s very difficult to get rid of. It branches out from the stem, but cannot be pulled at all without breaking. It has prolific seed production. If you are happy to have only this in a garden, go for it, but if you want a variety of native plants, DIG it out at first sight. I see it everywhere now. I pulled up what I thought were seedlings in the school garden, and the next week each plant had come back 3-fold.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-19 11:26:05

Janet, many native species can be aggressive in cultivation, but this is one that really thrives in disturbed soil. Digging or uprooting can create disturbance. Preventing seed production is advisable, so deadheading plants might be a way to control it.

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