This plant has acquired romantically inspired names all around the globe; ‘four o’clock marvel’, ‘belle de nuit’ (beauty of night) or ‘marvel of Peru’. Akşam sefası means ‘evening pleasure’ in Turkish. Mirabilis jalapa, the Latin name for this plant, means ‘wonderful Jalapa’, Jalapa being a somewhat common place name in Central America.
Mirabilis jalapa hails from tropical South America, but has become naturalized throughout tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. ‘‘In the cooler temperate regions it will die back with the first frosts and regrow in the following spring from the tubular roots. The plant does best in full sun. It grows to approximately 1 m in height. The single-seeded fruits are spherical, wrinkled and black upon maturity, having started out greenish-yellow. The plant will self-seed, often spreading rapidly if left unchecked in a garden.’’(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirabilis_jalapa)
M. jalapa is said to have been exported from the Peruvian Andes in 1540. That is when it must have been named marvel of Peru.
Peru does not have an exclusively tropical climate. The Andes Mountains and the ocean current known as the Humboldt Current or the Peru Current that flows north along the west coast of South America from the southern tip of Chile to northern Peru influence the climate of the country considerably. The climatic diversity within the country creates high biodiversity. Thousands of plants are endemic to Peru. Marvel of Peru might be one of them.
The flowers of Mirabilis jalapa open from late afternoon onward producing a strong, sweet smelling fragrance. This is why the various names for it have the word ‘evening’ or ‘night’ in them.
Another curious aspect of this plant is that flowers of different colors can be found simultaneously on the same plant or on the same flower. It is available in a range of colors.
Photograph: Taken on July 22, 2012 by Gossipguy- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Belle_de_Nuit.jpg
The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued moths and other nocturnal pollinators attracted by the fragrance.
The plant is a natural in the Aegean and I have also grown it in my garden in Montreal.
My aunt used to have a very small, stony grounded courtyard of a garden beside her house in the Aegean Province of Turkey in which I sometimes played all by myself when I was seven-eight years old. The place seemed bigger to me understandably. My friends were a vine that had big red grapes and the akşam sefası. The vine just grew on its own, perhaps planted by a former owner. I remember the grapes being slightly dusty but I ate them anyway. I liked them. The skin on them was a little tough and their taste was a tad spicy. They were not very refined, however, they were not sprayed with any chemicals.
The flowers provided the most entertainment though. They were trumpet like with semi attached petals-sympetalous petals. They had a perfumed smell. As the name of the plant signifies, I marveled at the fact that some of the flowers had two colors while others were yellow or cyclamen solely.
I collected the green or the ripened black seeds until they overflowed my hand.