Mirabilis jalapa L., Sp. Pl. 177 (1753)

Species name reffering to a place name in Central America.

Jalapa congesta Moench
Jalapa officinalis Garsault [invalid]
Mirabilis ambigua Trautv.
Mirabilis jalapa var. jalapa
Mirabilis jalapa ssp. lindheimeri Standl.
Mirabilis jalapa var. lindheimeri (Standl.) Cory
Mirabilis lindheimeri (Standl.) Shinners
Mirabilis pedunculata Stokes
Mirabilis planiflora Trautv.
Mirabilis pubescens Zipp. ex Span.
Mirabilis suaveolens Bilb. ex Beurl.
Mirabilis xalapa Noronha
Nyctago hortensis Dum.Cours. [illegitimate]
Nyctago jalapae (L.) DC.
Nyctago versicolor Salisb. [illegitimate]

A small herb with tuberous roots that flowers continuously. Stems inflated at nodes. Leaves are opposite and resemble leaves of chili pepper. Flowers with corolla tube, colour can vary from white to yellow, red, purple or mixed colours. The fruit is black and up to ca. 1 cm,usually placed within the persistent calyx.

Herbs annual, to 1 m tall. Roots tuberous, black or black-brown. Stems erect, much branched, cylindric, glabrous or slightly pubescent, inflated on nodes. Petiole 1-4 cm; leaf blade ovate or ovate-triangular, 3-15 x 2-9 cm, base truncate or cordate, margin entire, apex acuminate. Flowers usually several clustered at apex of branches, fragrant; pedicel 1-2 mm. Involucre campanulate, ca. 1 cm, 5-lobed, lobes triangular-ovate, acuminate, glabrous, persistent. Perianth purple, red, yellow, white, or variegated; tube 2-6 cm; limb 2.5-3 cm in diam., opening in late afternoon, closing next morning. Stamens 5; filaments slender, exserted; anther globose. Fruit black, globose, 5-8 mm in diam., coriaceous, ribbed and plicate. Endosperm white mealy. [from Flora of China]

Originally introduced in Asia as an ornamental, now a ruderal weed. 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.

Ornamental. The flowers are used in food colouring. The leaves may be eaten cooked, but only as an emergency food because the plant is mostly poisonous. 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 varieties is used as a cosmetic and a dye. The seeds are considered poisonous. The plant has a potential for the bioremediation of soils polluted with moderate concentrations of heavy metals such as cadmium.

Native to tropical America, but now occurring pantropical.

Local names
China: Zi mo li, Xizao hua, Zhufan hua.
English: Four o'clock flower, Marvel of Peru, Purple jasmin.
India: Andhi mandhaari (Tamil), Chandrakantha (Telugu), Godhuli Gopal (Assam), Gulabakshi (Marathi), Naalumani poovu (Malayam), Rangani (Oriya), Sandhyamaloti (Bengal), Sanjhaa phool (Maithili).
Pakistan: Gul Adnan.
Sri Lanka: Hendirikka.