pronounced: nyk-taj-in-NAY-see-eye

the bougainvillea family

The Nyctaginaceae, from the Greek νυξ, νυκτος (nyx, nyktos), the night, is named for Mirabilis nyctaginea, the wild four o’clock, whose flowers typically open during the late afternoon, remain open at night, and wither the next morning. The family consists of herbs, shrubs and a few trees, annual or perennial, with fibrous to fleshy or tuberous roots. The stems are procumbent to erect, sometimes clambering through other plants. The leaves are simple, entire, without stipules, and generally opposite. The inflorescences are terminal or lateral in leaf axils, usually cymose or racemose, open or congested, bracteate; the bracts are distinct or connate, sometimes forming an involucre containing anything up to 80 flowers. These may be bisexual or unisexual, the calyx usually 5 connate sepals, varying from small and inconspicuous to large and colourful, corolla-like. The corolla is absent; there are commonly as many stamens as there are calyx lobes, and alternate with them. The fruit is an achene that is often enveloped by the persistent base of the corolla tube.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2005