Marvel Of Peru, a garden name for plants of the genus mirabilu, also called four o'clock.
The genus belongs to the family nyctaginaeea, and includes about half a dozen species, natives of the warmer parts of America. Though they are tuberous-rooted perennials, they bloom early from the seed, and are usually treated as annuals; the roots may be kept through the winter in the cellar and planted out in spring, when they will flower much earlier than plants from seed. The stems are jointed, and tumid at the joints at which are borne the opposite, simple, more or less heart-shaped leaves the flowers are one or more from a large cup-shaped involucre, without petals, but the funnel-shaped calyx is petal-like and forms the showy portion of the flower; the stamens are five, and with the single style are protruded; in maturing, the lower portion of the calyx hardens to form a false pericarp around the fruit proper, while the upper portion falls away; this wonderful manner of forming what appears to be the fruit is said to have suggested the name mirabilis for the irenus. The common four o'clock of the gardens is M. Jalapa. so called because at one time it was supposed to be the plant which furnished the medicine jalap; the tube of the flower is about 2 in. long; the colors are white, yellow, and various shades of red, often pleasingly variegated in the same flower, in blotches and stripes; in some flowers one portion is pure white and the other red, the line of demarcation being perfectly distinct; in this species there is but one flower to each involucre, which in this case exactly represents a calyx.
This plant was introduced into cultivation in 1596, and still retains its popularity; the flowers open toward sunset, or earlier in cloudy weather, a fact recognized in the name four o'clock; it is also known as afternoon lady, and the French call it belle de nult. The long-flowered marvel of Peru (M, longiflora) has white sweet-scented flowers, the tube of which is 6 in. long, hairy and sticky. This species and the preceding have been hybridized, and varieties partaking of the peculiarities of both produced; the hybrids frequently produce fertile seeds. .M. Wrightiana, from Texas, is in cultivation; the flowers are white, tinted with rose. As generally seen in gardens, the plants of marvel of Peru are crowded too much; in order to exhibit their beauty, they should be cultivated as isolated specimens.
Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis Jalapa).