Garden

Beautiful at night - Mirabilis jalapa

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GeneralitŠ°

Perennial tuberous herbaceous plant, often grown as an annual, native to Central and South America. It looks like a dense erect bush, very branched, with large dark green leaves, shiny, with a heart-shaped base. In summer it produces many fragrant, five-lobed, yellow, red, pink or white or two-colored flowers; often flowers of two different colors bloom on the same plant; the flowers open at dusk. It produces many fertile, woody, black and egg-shaped seeds. Mirabilis Jalapa is a perennial (in Italy used mostly as an annual) native to South America and more particularly to Peru. Initially from Linnaeus it was called Admirabilis Jalapa. In fact, it is "admired" not so much for its beauty, but for its originality. First of all, the flower head opens only in the evening, usually after 5 in the afternoon. The flowers have no corolla, but are made up of a single calyx that opens like a trumpet. Another detail that makes this vegetable stand out is the great variety of possible colors. These can be combined in extraordinary ways even on the same single flower!


Origins and description

As we said, it originated in the New World and arrived in Europe in 1524. It immediately became popular with the less well-off who appreciated its long flowering and its ability to spread easily. However, it was also noted by botanists (Correns) in particular for the quality of having short growth and development cycles. These, combined with the great variety of colors, were indispensable requirements to make it the perfect guinea pig for the study of genetic inheritance in plants.

In general it is a herbaceous plant up to 30 cm high. Its root is blackish on the outside and white on the inside. The stem is gnarled, stained with dark crimson and can be smooth or slightly fluffy. Growing it becomes well branched and forms a small bush with a rounded shape. The leaves are alternate, smooth, oval but pointed. The base is instead heart-shaped. The flowers are collected in bunches at the apex, composed of at least 3 and at most 6 flower heads. After pollination, large black seeds are produced.

The colors available are many: red, white, yellow, soft pink or bright and can be variously stained or mottled. On the market there are generally seed bags in mixed colors. If we want a single color scheme it is good to look for specialized seed retailers. If we like a particular color, we can have fun practicing pollination ourselves and then proceed with the selection until we reach a pure color.

Mirabilis longiflora it belongs to the same genus, but is much less widespread on a horticultural level. It comes from Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It has a black root, a very branched stem and initially prostrate, to then become erect. The leaves are alternate and fluffy. It produces white flowers with red throat, very elongated. A great advantage of this plant is its strong perfume similar to that of orange blossom. It can be hybridized with jalapa.

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