Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa is a poisonous plant

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Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa, click for a larger image
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Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Family - Nyctaginaceae
Also known as - Four o'clock flower

This plant is poisonous

Marvel of Peru is native of the the dry tropical regions of North, Central and South America.  ,It is also known as the Four o'clock flower as it supposedly blooms in the late afternoon.  It was one of the most popular ornamental plants in the 17th and 18th centuries and has become naturalised in other temperate regions of the world.  It is a perennial herbaceous plant with an upright smooth stem to around 1M (39in) high growing from a long black tuberous root.  The leaves are a dark green ovate with a sharply pointed apex, simple and opposite, up to 12cm (4.75in) long and up to 5cm (2in) wide.  The undersides are paler than the upper.

Flowers are Hermaphroditic, 4-6cm (1.6-2.4in) long and 2-3.5cm (0.8-1.5in) in diameter, arranged in groups at the stem top.  They do not have a a corolla but consist of five fused sepals, they can vary greatly in colour with white, yellow, pink and red, sometimes mottled or bi-coloured, occasionally with different colours appearing on the same plant.  They have a scent reminiscent of the tobacco flower attracting moths for pollination.  It easily self propagates by seed even in poor soils and often colonizes ruderal habitats and can become invasive in some areas.  When formed the seeds are a spherical greenish-yellow which matures to a black wrinkled prune like form.

FBCP do not advise or recommend that Marvel of Peru – Mirabilis jalapa is eaten or used as an herbal remedy.   Parts of the plant have been used in traditional medicine, in particular the tuberous roots for their purgative and antibacterial properties; the seeds are poisonous as they contain alkaloid neurotoxins.  The flowers have apparently been used in food colouring.

Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa, click for a larger image
Photos ©2022
Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa, click for a larger image
Our specimens in these photos were found in late October under a Bramble canopy, the leaves appear rather pale and mottled.

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