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    There is disagreement about the name of the plants shown on this page. There is no disagreement about the beauty.

William Weber's Colorado Flora recognizes two distinct species, Mirabilis glandulosa and Mirabilis multiflora. M. glandulosa is, according to Weber, a "sprawling plant with large, thick, green, rounded-cordate leaves and few branches; inflorescence very glandular-pubescent", and M. multiflora is an "erect plant forming hemispherical bushy growth; leaves triangular-cordate, not very succulent, grayish pubescent; branches numerous from the base; inflorescence not markedly glandular". None of the following sources accept the above as distinguishing characteristics between the two taxa.

The Flora of North America recognizes just one species with two varieties which differ from each other only on the basis of the smoothness and wetted feel (mucilaginous or not) of their fruits and on the shape of their bracts. M. multiflora variety glandulosa has tuberculate, mucilaginous when wetted fruits and obtuse involucral bracts. M. multiflora variety multiflora has "fruits smooth to slightly tuberculate, not mucilaginous when wetted; involucral bracts acute".

Stanley Welsh's A Utah Flora recognizes just one species, Mirabilis multiflora. Welsh does not accept the distinctions made by Weber or by FNA. Welsh does not comment directly on the distinctions made by Weber, but his description of Mirabilis multiflora includes the range of characteristics that Weber separates into two species. Welsh does comment specifically on FNA: the diagnostic characteristics of the seeds are "not possible to apply in most cases due to lack of fruiting specimens" and the shape of the bracts "grades continuously".

John Kartesz (the ultimate authority for plant names on this web site) sides with the FNA: Mirabilis multiflora variety glandulosa and Mirabilis multiflora variety multiflora.

My observations support Welsh's position. I find that the shape of the leaves and involucral bracts, the branching of the plant, the sprawling or upright nature of the plant, the glandularity, etc. all grade continuously. Some plants have several characteristics belonging to what Weber and FNA call glandulosa and several belonging to multiflora. Further, accepting the FNA's reliance on seed characteristics is, as Welsh indicates, not feasible.

This web site presents just one species, no varieties: Mirabilis multiflora.

See more Four O'Clocks.

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora Synonym: Mirabilis glandulosa. (Four O'Clocks)
Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock Family)

Semi-desert, foothills.  Canyons. Late spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2004 and Carpenter Natural Area, June, 16, 2013.

The very attractive Mirabilis multiflora is most often found sprawling in dry twigs and leaves under old Junipers and Pinyons or out in he open in a seemingly arid and inhospitable environment. 

Mirabilis multiflora leaves are lustrous, thick, large, rounded to heart-shaped and easily catch a hiker's eye even before the stunning flowers bloom.  Depending on moisture, the plant may produce just a few sprawling branches with few flowers, or, under most conditions, huge showy mounds of leaves and flowers are produced. In the winter, dried stems and leaves are a ghostly white.

Mirabilis multiflora was first collected for science by Edwin James "about the Forks of the Platte River, Colorado" in 1820 and was named Oxybaphus multiflorus by John Torrey in 1827 and then was renamed Mirabilis multiflora by Asa Gray in 1859. "Mirabilis" is Latin for "wonderful".

Mirabilis multiflora
Mirabilis multiflora Synonym: Mirabilis glandulosa. (Four O'Clocks)
Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock Family)

Semi-desert, foothills.  Canyons. Late spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2004.

There are six flowers clustered in each involucre; see the 6 buds in the lower left of the photograph. 

Mirabilis multiflora
Mirabilis multiflora Synonym: Mirabilis glandulosa. (Four O'Clocks)
Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock Family)

Semi-desert, foothills.  Canyons. Late spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2004.

Each flower is about two inches across and three inches tall.  Notice that stamens and pistil project above the fused petal-looking structure which is actually fused sepals.

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora

Mirabilis multiflora Synonym: Mirabilis glandulosa. (Four O'Clocks)
Nyctaginaceae (Four O'Clock Family)

Semi-desert, foothills.  Canyons. Late spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 24, 2013.

Lobes of the flower bracts are fused (connate) a bit more than half of their height. Sand grains adhere to the exterior surface because that surface (and the peduncle) is often covered with glandular (sticky) hairs. The inner surface shines bright green because it is not glandular. The bottom photograph is an enlargement of the base of the involucre and you can see the gleaming and sandy multitude of bulbous-tipped hairs.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Mirabilis multiflora

Range map for Mirabilis multiflora