Mirabilis is from Latin meaning "marvelous" or "wonderful," a reference to the beauty of this plant. Multiflora means "many-flowered" in reference to the numerous flowers that can cloak the plants.
Showy four o'clocks are perennial plants that die back to their roots each year. These plants form large clumps from multiple stems, are 1-3 feet tall and as broad or broader. The dark green leaves are opposite and are round to egg-shaped -- at times they appear heart-shaped -- with short petioles.
Showy four o'clocks grow in pinyon-juniper woodlands or in shrublands. They can grow on the ground or in small crevices in rock formations where there is suitable soil.
Native Americans have used the plant for dyes or medicinal properties, both in prehistoric times and modern day. The Navajos boiled the flowers to make a light brown or purple color for dying wool. The Hopis used the roots of older plants to make a blood-strengthening tea for pregnant women. Teas were also made to treat colic, eye infections, muscle soreness, body swellings, rheumatism and indigestion. The Acoma and Laguna pueblo tribes dried the leaves for smoking material, and some say the plant has a sedative property.