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Matthew L Baker 2

Annual or perennial herbs, shrubs, trees or climbers. Leaves alternate, opposite or pseudowhorled, simple, entire, exstipulate. Inflorescences axillary or terminal cymes. Flowers bisexual (occasionally unisexual), occasionally subtended and often surrounded by colourful bracts. Perianth uniseriate, composed of a petaloid calyx consisting of 5 connate sepals. Stamens 1-30. Pistil 1, ovary superior, unilocular, 1-carpelled, ovule 1, style 1, stigma 1. Fruit an achene.

A family of ca. 31 genera and 400 species mainly in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Five genera (two naturalised) and 24 species (two naturalised) in Australia.

Key references: Le Duc (1995), Spellenberg (2003).

External resources: author & publication abbreviations (IPNI); mapping (AVH, NVA); nomenclature (APNI, IPNI).


Mirabilis L. Sp. Pl. 1:177 (1753).

Perennial herbs, glabrous or pubescent, roots slender to tuberous. Stems erect to decumbent. Leaves petiolate or sessile. Inflorescence a 3–7 flowered terminal cyme; bracts persistent, 5, connate. Flowers bisexual, perianth radially or slightly bilaterally symmetrical, campanulate to infundibiliform, 5-lobed; stamens 3–6; styles exserted beyond stamens; stigmas capitate. Fruits with or without ribs, obovoid, ellipsoid or nearly globose, smooth or tuberculate, glabrous or pubescent.

Mirabilis L. is a genus of about 60 species. Native to North and South America with one species in the Himalayas (Le Duc 1995). One species, M. jalapa L., is cultivated in Australia and has become widely naturalised.

1 * Mirabilis jalapa L. Sp. Pl. 1:177 (1753)

Four O’clock Plant, Marvel-of-Peru

Thumbnail map of TasmaniaHamburger menu graphic to signify link to record data

Illustrations: Richardson et al., Weeds of the South-East: An Identification Guide for Australia 317 (2006); Richardson et al., Weeds of the South-East: An Identification Guide for Australia, 2nd Edition 384 (2011); Jacobs & Harden, Fl. New South Wales 1: 187 (1990); Jessop, Fl. South Australia 1: fig. 104c (1986); Phillips & Rix, The Botanical Garden 1: 82 (2002); Spencer, Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia 2: 184 (1997).

Erect, bushy perennial herb with thick tuberous rootstock. Plants to 1.5 m tall, nodes swollen. Leaves opposite; petiole to 25 mm long. Lamina ovate to broad-lanceolate, up to 120 mm long, 20–50 mm wide; base cuneate to obtuse; margin minutely undulate with sparse multicellular hairs; apex acute. Inflorescences compact, axillary and terminal cymes. Bracts 5, connate, calyx-like. Perianth 5 lobed, 2–3 cm long, white, yellow or magenta, or a variegated mixture of these colours, even all on the same plant; stamens 5–6 subtended by a connate five lobed calyx like bract. Fruit a subglobose achene, base prominently constricted, c. 7 mm long, 5 mm diam., dark brown to black, smooth or faintly rugose, glabrous. Flowering Jan.–Apr.

Tas. (FUR, TNS); also naturalised in WA, SA, Qld, NSW, ACT (doubtfully naturalised), Vic (sparingly naturalised); native of Mexico. Introduced to Tasmania as an ornamental, it has been recorded in naturalised populations at waste disposal sites near Scottsdale and St Helens in the states north-east. It has also been recorded as persisting in a long abandoned garden on Deal Island. The earliest Tasmanian collection, made in 1961, states that it was collected from the ‘North West’. No further information regarding its status is noted.


ALA (Atlas of Living Australia) http://www.ala.org.au/

APC (Australian Plant Census) https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/apc

APNI (Australian Plant Name Index) https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/apni

AVH (Australia’s Virtual Herbarium) (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria) http://avh.chah.org.au/

IPNI (International Plant Name Index) http://www.ipni.org

Le Duc, A (1995) A revision of Mirabilis section Mirabilis (Nyctaginaceae). Sida 16 613–648

NVA (Natural Values Atlas) (Department of Primary Industries and Water: Hobart) https://www.naturalvaluesatlas.tas.gov.au/

Spellenberg RW (2003) Mirabilis. Flora of North America 4 40–57.

NOTE: Web addresses can and do change: a list of current web addresses is maintained in the web version of this treatment on the Flora of Tasmania Online website at https://flora.tmag.tas.gov.au/

  1. This work can be cited as: Baker ML (2019). Nyctaginaceae, version 2019:1. In MF de Salas (Ed.) Flora of Tasmania Online. 1 pp. (Tasmanian Herbarium, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery: Hobart). https://flora.tmag.tas.gov.au/vascular-families/nyctaginaceae/ (accessed ).  ↩︎

  2. Tasmanian Herbarium, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, PO Box 5058, UTAS LPO, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005, Australia.  ↩︎