Desert Four O'Clock
This useful Venus
plant releases its scent at night and can have heart-shaped leaves. Navajos use the flowers for
dye, and Hopis make a tea out of the roots for pregnant women. Pueblo
Indians dried and smoked the leaves, which are supposed to be sedative.
Hopi medicine men also chew the large roots for purposes of divination.
is perennial in frost-free areas; otherwise, consider it an annual. It
forms large clumps with multiple stems, 1-3 feet around. The leaves are
purple when they first shoot and then turn green. The numerous purplish
pink flowers are 1-3 inches long and 1 inch wide. They bloom throughout
spring and summer, especially after a rain, and open in the afternoon or
on cloudy days. Their musky scent attracts hawkmoths, which drink
their nectar and pollinate the plant. Bees also collect the pollen.
This plant likes to grow in dry and rocky areas and at high elevations
in the Southwest, where it is native. Don't confuse this plant with the widely known Four O'Clock or Jalap;
that plant causes violent vomiting if ingested. This plant has no
known negative effects. Top
How to grow Desert Four O'Clocks: To
break seed dormancy, put them in a small thermos filled with very hot
water, and let them stay in there for 2 days. Then rinse and sow.
Seeds can take several weeks to sprout. They like full sun and
loose, dry, sandy soil--this is a good plant for xeriscaping.
They do not like to sit in water or to grow in clay. If you
live in an area with frost, consider them an annual or lift the roots
in the fall like begonias. This is a taprooted plant, which means
it gets usually one long main root; the deeper the soil, the bigger
roots you will get and the healthier plant you will have. Harvest
roots in the fall, when they are fattest, just after the first frost.
The roots are brittle and have to be dug up carefully by hand
rather than pulled or forked up. Wash them thoroughly and dry in
the sun before storage. First-year roots can weigh up to one
pound each (!). If you have luck growing this plant indoors, let
me know. General
growing info. Top
Desert Four O'clock
Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission