Desert 4 O’Clock

by Lorraine on July 14, 2009

This is the smelliest plant I’ve ever come across.   A few months ago, I noticed that whenever I stepped outside the front door into the garden, there was the overwhelming odor like cat pee.   Yuck!   You know how nasty that can smell.

I was trying to figure out where it was coming from and I noticed that in the evening it was particularly bad, awful, atrocious!   It would come wafting through the open window into my den where I’d be reading or watching the television and making it very challenging to ignore.

Yes, I know.   Close the window, right?

It smelled so much like cat piss, I figured that some Tom cat was exploring around in my garden and spraying it, claiming his territory.  Outdoor cats don’t usually last long around here because of the coyotes and I had seen a large, male Siamese cruising the neighborhood and then he’d disappear for a while.   I wondered if he was the culprit!

I was wrong.   I finally figured it out.   It was a plant directly underneath the window and just to the right of the front door.   So innocent looking and yet soooooooo lethal.

Desert 4 O’Clock or Mirabilis multiflora.   A rather attractive, low growing bush with white, delicate flowers on it.   So demure, delicate looking and with a huge punch of (What should I call it?) stink!

Looking Innocent

Looking Innocent

I went to the Cal Flora site to read up on it a bit and I’m not entirely sure, that this plant isn’t something else.   All the photos on the site for Desert 4 O’clock had lavender colored flowers.   My plant as white ones as you can see.

But whatever it is, it’s smelly.   Sure, I could take it out if it irritates me that much but I actually like the look of it and it’s gray-silvery color, so I’m leaving it in place and adapting to it’s odor.

The garden is looking less colorful and several of the plants have stopped blooming now that we are in the midst of summer.   But here is a photo of some sage with Chico just on the other side of it, surveying his territory, always on the lookout for lizards.

Sage/Salvia & Chico

Sage/Salvia & Chico

And keeping his eye out for that big Siamese Tom cat.   Chico’s very sensitive and will bolt for the door at the slightest scary thing.   Biscuit is even more nervous when it comes to the “unknown”.   I call him the Don Knotts of the feline world.

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1 Natalie 06.09.11 at 6:05 pm

That’s definitely not Desert 4’oclock. I have about 10 – 15 of these plants around my yard, all started from one seed which was difficult to start as it’s one you have to scar to get going, but once you get a single plant going they would be tough to kill off without using a skidsteerer and exacavating. Still, it’s an awesome plant. No smell as I can tell and the flowers are great from mid-summer to fall. Nicely formed plant, kind of a bush about 1.5 feet tall x 2 feet wide. Only drawback is it likes my veggie raised beds, but the bright side is every year I get to dig out some more tubular roots and share with other xeric garden fans. No water required for this little beauty and it does not spread by seed all over your yard, only by root and local to the main host. Transplants like a champ.

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