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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Nyctaginaceae | Mirabilis

1a. Mirabilis jalapa Linnaeus var. jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa subsp. lindheimeri Standley; M. lindheimeri (Standley) Shinners; M. odorata Linnaeus

Stems usually several, 5-15(-28) dm; herbage glabrous or lightly puberulent basally, glabrous or puberulent (glandular-puberulent) distally, pubescence often in 2 lines. Leaves at midstem with petioles 1-7 cm; blade usually deltate-ovate, oblong-ovate, or broadly lanceolate, 4-14 × 2-9 cm, base cordate to obtuse. Inflorescences moderately dense to open clusters of flowers among inconspicuous or conspicuous and foliaceous bracts 2-17 mm; peduncle 0.5-5 mm; bracts 40-60% connate, 5-12 mm in flower, 7-15(-17) mm in fruit, apex triangular, lanceolate, or linear-lanceolate. Flowers: perianth usually rose-pink, sometimes yellow, rarely white or variegated [orange], (2-)3.5-5 cm, glabrous (rarely highly puberulent). Fruits dark brown to nearly black, 7-11 mm, round or obscurely, bluntly 5-angled in cross section, broadly ellipsoid to slightly obovoid, base abruptly constricted to truncate, apex tapered to obtuse or slightly constricted and truncate, fruit surface smooth or inconspicuously rugose or tuberculate, glabrous or puberulent. 2n = 58.

Flowering summer-early fall [year-round]. Roadsides, old fields, fence rows, waste areas; 0-1000[-2800] m; introduced; Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Conn., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Md., Miss., Nev., N.J., N.Mex., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tex., Utah, Vt., Va.; Mexico; introduced in West Indies, Bermuda, Central America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia.

A horticulturally important annual or perennial garden plant, Mirabilis jalapa is often found as an introduction or is barely naturalized in the United States. Cultivated by the Aztecs for ornament and medicine, it was described from cultivated material 200 years after its introduction to Europe (A. Le Duc 1995). It is widely established in tropical and warm-temperate regions.

The root, which may weigh up to 20 kg, has cathartic properties. The epithet "jalapa" apparently was applied in belief that this was the jalap of commerce, actually Ipomoea purga (Wenderoth) Hayne. Variety jalapa is variable in flower color and size. The entirely Mexican and also variable var. oaxacana Heimerl has longer, more slender, usually white perianths, the longest rivaling those of Mirabilis longiflora; it includes M. gracilis (Standley) Le Duc and M. polonii Le Duc (R. Spellenberg 2001).


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