026 Mirabilis jalapa L.
Nome comune: Bella di notte comune
A curious aspect of this plant is that flowers of different colors can be found simultaneously on the same plant.
Variegated flower on a four o'clock plant.
Naturally occurring color variation on four o'clock flowers.Additionally, an individual flower can be splashed with different colors. Another interesting point is a color-changing phenomenon. For example, in the yellow variety, as the plant matures, it can display flowers that gradually change to a dark pink color. Similarly white flowers can change to light violet.
A four o'clock plant in full bloom.The flowers usually open from late afternoon onwards, then producing a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, hence the first of its common names. In Southern India, it is called as "Anthi Mandhaarai" (Tamil: ????? ???????). In Maharashtra, it is called "Gulabakshi" (Marathi: ????????). In China, it is called the "shower flower" (Chinese: ???; pinyin: xizao hua) or "rice boiling flower" (simplified Chinese: ???; traditional Chinese: ???; pinyin: zhufàn hua) because it is in bloom at the time of these activities. In Hong Kong, it is known as "purple jasmine" (???). Despite their appearance, the flowers are not formed from petals – rather they are a pigmented modification of the calyx.
The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued moths of the Sphingidae family, such as the sphinx moths or hawk moths and other nocturnal pollinators attracted by the fragrance.
M. jalapa hails from tropical South America, but has become naturalised throughout tropical and warm temperate regions. In cooler temperate regions, it will die back with the first frosts, regrowing in the following spring from the tuberous roots. The plant does best in full sun. It grows to approximately 0.9 m in height. The single-seeded fruit are spherical, wrinkled and black upon maturity (see picture), having started out greenish-yellow. The plant will self-seed, often spreading rapidly if left unchecked in a garden. Some gardeners recommend that the seeds should be soaked before planting, but this is not totally necessary. In North America, the plant perennializes in warm, coastal environments, particularly in USDA Zones 9–10.
The flowers are used in food colouring. The leaves may be eaten cooked as well, but only as an emergency food.
An edible crimson dye is obtained from the flowers to colour cakes and jellies.
In herbal medicine, parts of the plant may be used as a diuretic, purgative, and for vulnerary (wound healing) purposes. The root is believed an aphrodisiac as well as diuretic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of dropsy.
The leaves are used to reduce inflammation. A decoction of them (mashing and boiling) is used to treat abscesses. Leaf juice may be used to treat wounds.
Powdered, the seed of some varieities is used as a cosmetic and a dye. The seeds are considered poisonous.