Mirabilis multiflora (Torr.) A. Gray
Colorado Four O'Clock
Nyctaginaceae (Four O'clock Family)
USDA Symbol: mimu
Vibrant deep pink, broadly tubular flowers bloom in 5-lobed cups growing in leaf axils of this bushy plant. The repeatedly forked stems of this perennial, forming stout, leafy clumps 18 in. high and up to 3 ft. wide. Flower stems are solitary in leaf axils and in clusters at the ends of branches. Large, showy, five-lobed, magenta-purple flowers, open in late afternoon and closing in the morning. The foliage is dark green.
Flowers open in the evening. Two similar species occur in totally separate areas. They are Green's Four-o'clock (M. greenei), on dry slopes in northern California, and MacFarlane's Four-o'clock (M. macfarlanei), in canyons in northeastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Shape: Cordate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Size Notes: The Four-O’Clock has a rounded profile, growing approximately 3 feet high and spreading 3 feet in diameter. The root of this long-lived perennial can get quite large—in older specimens the circumference can be up to a foot or more.
Flower: Flowers 1-1/2 to 2-1/8 inches in length
Fruit: Seeds are dark, often ribbed, and are shaped like miniature hand-grenades.
Size Class: 1-3 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Blooming nearly half the year, from April to mid-September, the Four-O’Clock opens a mass of fragrant blossoms in the afternoon, thus acquiring it’s common name.
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA , CO , NM , NV , TX , UT
Native Distribution: S.w. CO & UT, s. to n. Mex.
Native Habitat: Open, sandy hillsides & mesas; juniper & pinyon communities; 2500 to 6500 ft.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Dry, rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Drought tolerant. This rapidly growing plant is long-lived and undemanding. It is useful as a ground cover, is used for erosion control, and is attractive draping a retaining wall. It can be mowed off at ground level in October.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Four-O’Clocks are well-suited to both sun and partial shade, and are perfect for livening any bed or border with a blast of color.
Use Wildlife: This night-blooming species is visited by many nocturnal insects, including the hawkmoths Sphinx chersis and Eumorpha achemon, as well as pollen-collecting bees visiting at dusk and dawn. Also attracts hummingbird and quail.
Use Food: Large quantities of pulverized Four-O’Clock roots were recovered from the Fresnal Shelter in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, dating back two thousand years, and are believed to have served as a source of food.
Use Medicinal: This plant has a long and varied history with many Native peoples, uses that differ even among clans. The Navajos make a tea from it, a light purplish-brown dye for wool, use the plant internally for rheumatism, externally as an oral aid for mouth disorders, and use the roots as a poultice to reduce swellings. The Western Keres use the dried leaves as a tobacco substitute. The Hopi use the unusually heavy root as an anchor in bird traps, an antiseptic for wounds on their horses; a blood strengthener for pregnant women; and to induce visions while making a diagnosis. The Zuni mix the powdered root into their bread dough to suppress appetite. Other Native peoples use the plant to treat indigestion, eye infections and colic in babies. The leaves steeped in oil and applied to the throat and back help reduce a dry heat fever.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies , Hummingbirds
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Propagate by treated seed, soft cuttings, or dormant division of tuberous roots. They can be started by seed sown where plants are to stand and are considered “tender annuals” until the root is established. Four-O’Clocks can also be started from rooted cuttings.
Seed Collection: Large seeds are not abundant.
Seed Treatment: Seed must be scarified or stratified.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Tohono Chul Park, Inc. - Tucson, AZ
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0776 Collected Oct 19, 1993 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
BibliographyBibref 261 - Arizona Flora (1960) Kearney, T. H. & R. H. Peebles
Bibref 91 - Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (2003) Moore, M.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 964 - Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners (1997) Dunmire, W. W.; G. D. Tierney
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Mirabilis multiflora in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Mirabilis multiflora in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Mirabilis multiflora
MetadataRecord Modified: 2009-04-19
Research By: TWC Staff