Country of origin: Trinidad & Tobago
Plant: Four O’clock Flower
The four o’clock flower (Mirabilis jalapa), is the most commonly grown ornamental species of Mirabilis plant. It hails from tropical South America, having been cultivated by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental purposes, but has become naturalized throughout tropical and warm temperate regions. Curiously the flowers grow with different colors simultaneously on the same plant. Additionally, an individual flower can be splashed with different colors. The flowers usually open from late afternoon onwards, hence its name. Flowers then produce a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance throughout the night, then close for good in the morning. New flowers open the following day. The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued moths, nocturnal pollinators attracted by the fragrance. It can grow to approximately 1m in height. The single-seeded fruits are spherical, wrinkled and black upon maturity, having started out greenish-yellow. The plant will self-seed, often spreading rapidly if left unchecked in a garden.
An edible crimson dye is obtained from the flowers to create food coloring. In herbal medicine, parts of the plant may be used as a diuretic, purgative, and for wound healing purposes. The root is believed an aphrodisiac as well as diuretic and purgative.