Colorado Four 0’Clock

Mirabilis multiflora (Torr.) A. Gray

Eukaryota > Viridiplantae > Streptophyta > Streptophytina > Embryophyta > Tracheophyta > Euphyllophyta > Spermatophyta > Magnoliopsida > Mesangiospermae > eudicotyledons > Gunneridae > Pentapetalae > Caryophyllales > Nyctaginaceae > Mirabilis > Mirabilis mutiflora [1]

Habit of Mirabilis multiflora including the entire plant. Photo by Stan Sheb. [10]

Habit of Mirabilis multiflora including the entire plant. Photo by Stan Sheb. [10]

Summary Description

Herb, long-lived perennial, clump-forming, decumbent to ascending mainly. Stems 3-8 dm tall, 4-10 mm thick, tapering upwards. Herbage green or glaucus, puberulent to glabrous. Leaves short-petiolate, blades 2-10 cm long and about as broad, orbicular to ovate, base truncate to subcordate, apex rounded to obtuse or acute. Involucres campanulate, 5-lobed, connate to above the middle, 20-35 mm long, erect or ascending, peduncles 0.5-7 cm long. Flowers 6 per involucre, pedicels 2 mm long, on midvein of the subtending bract; perianth 4-6 cm long, funnelform, pink-purple (magenta), the tube colored like the limb or green; stamens exerted, 5-10 or more, the filaments glabrous to pubescent [2].

Involucre and fruit of Mirabilis multiflora. Photo by Jim Boone at [11]

Involucre and fruit of Mirabilis multiflora. Photo by Jim Boone at [11]

Identification Tips

Mirabilis multiflora can be differentiated from all other native, non-cultivated Mirabilis species in Utah by its longer (4-6 cm) perianth (calyx + flowers) whereas other species are less than 4 cm long. Mirabilis jalapa is a cultivated variety that has varicolored flowers ranging from yellow to red with some flowers themselves exhibiting two colors on one flower; M. multiflora is not variegated in flower color but uniformly magenta [2].

Taxonomic History

Mirabilis is Latin for miraculous or wonderful, alluding to the beauty of the plants. The word multiflora means many-flowered (Hazelton, 2017). Mirabilis multiflora was first described as Oxybaphus mutiflorus Torr. in a report commissioned by the Department of the Interior to describe and catalogue plants along the U.S. / Mexico boundary [3].

Flowers of Mirabilis multiflora. Photo by Stan Sheb. [9]

Flowers of Mirabilis multiflora. Photo by Stan Sheb. [9]

Economic/Ethnobotanical Uses

Mirabilis multiflora was documented for food and medicinal use by Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo North American tribes and can be used medicinally as a gynecological aid, to treat rheumatism, swellings, various mouth disorders, and as an antiseptic to wash out wounds [4,5]. The root was chewed by a medicine man to induce visions [6]. It can also be used as a tea, as tobacco, and as a bird trap string [4,5].

Native Range

Map showing the native range of the Fremont Cottonwood.

Distribution map of Mirabilis multiflora on a county level. [7].

Conservation Status

Mirabilis multiflora was last assessed for NatureServe 13 May 1991 and is considered secure [8]. It has not been assessed for the IUCN Red List.

Plant ecology/habitat

M. multiflora is found in Creosote bush, blackbrush, and pinyon-juniper communities [2]. It can be found in gravelly and sandy soils, from the creosote flats of the low desert to the chaparral, and into the ponderosa forests from 500-8,500 ft (152-2591 m). The flowers occur in spring and summer.

Additional Resources


[1] "Taxonomy Browser (Mirabilis multiflora)." National Center for Biotechnology Information,

[2] Welsh, S. L. 2003. A Utah flora. 3rd ed., Brigham Young University Press. ISBN 0-8425-2556-4

[3] United States Dept of the Interior. 1859. “Report on the United States and Mexican boundary survey :made under the direction of the secretary of the Interior.” C. Wendell, Printer. Washington. pg. 173

[4] Colton, Harold S. 1974. Hopi History And Ethnobotany, in D. A. Horr (ed.) Hopi Indians. Garland: New York., page 334.

[5] Vestal, Paul A. 1952. The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology 40(4):1-94

[6] Whiting, Alfred F. 1939. Ethnobotany of the Hopi. Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin 15: 31, 75.

[7] USDA NRCS National Plant Data Team. "Mirabilis multiflora." USDA Plants Database,

[8] "Mirabilis multiflora Colorado four o’clock." NatureServe Explorer 2.0,

[9] Photo by Stan Shebs.

[10] Photo by Stan Shebs.

[11] Photo by Jim Boone from

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