(Mirabilis jalapa) This botanical party originally came to us from our dear friend and collaborator Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network who gathered the seed from wild roadside plants in the village of Castiglione di Sicilia - north of Mount Etna in northeastern Sicily, close to her familial home.
"I love these flowers as they remind me of my Sicilian grandmother who always had them in her yard in Florida where they are perennial plus self seed prolifically.
Although my grandmother only had the common solid hot pink/purple variety, a cool thing about them is they can have flowers with different colors growing simultaneously on the same plant. Some flowers have splashes and streaks of multiple colors on individual blooms. And it’s possible to have different combinations of flowers and patterns occurring on different flowers of the same plant.
The name "four-o'clock” comes from the flowers opening in the late afternoon or early evening (between 4:00-8:00). The blooms produce a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance throughout the night which attracts Sphingidae moths and other nocturnal pollinators which pollinate during the night before the flowers close for good in the morning. New flowers open the next day.
These plants are originally from tropical South America and arrived in Europe in 1525 as an ornamental species. In Italy they are called 'bella di notte', which means 'beautiful during night'.
Plants stand about 4' and are covered with blooms, from hot pinks to electric salmons to neon yellows and any streaked combination of the three. The name "Strega" is Italian for "witch" and is an apt descriptor for the genetic sorcery that is at play in the plants. Much of the unpredictability of pattern and coloration in the blooms is a result of transposons (or "jumping genes") which move around chromosomes disrupting what would normally be predictable color expression with wild splashes of patterning and color.
The first in our new "Random Italian roadside 4 o'clock biodiversity project" in partnership with the Culinary Breeding Network.
80 days. UO
Packet: 20 seeds