Physalis peruviana Physalis peruviana Physalis philadelphica

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Bladder Cherry

Physalis alkekengi

  • Name also: Cape Gooseberry, Chinese Lantern, Japanese Lantern, Winter Cherry, Strawberry Cherry
  • Family: Nightshade Family – Solanaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock horizontal.
  • Height: 25–60 cm (10–25 in.). Stem often unbranched, sparsely haired.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic). Corolla yellowish white, fused, wheel-shaped, 5-lobed, 15–20 mm (0.6–0.8 in.) wide, underside hairy. Calyx fused, 5-lobed, initially campanulate, green; spreading, concealing berries after flowering, eventually 25–50 mm (1–2 in.) long, oval, yellowish red. Stamens 5, anthers tight against corolla tube. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Flowers solitary, hanging in axils.
  • Leaves: Alternate or opposite, stalked. Leaf blade widely ovate, usually blunt-based, with entire margins–sparsely large-toothed, sparsely short-haired.
  • Fruit: Red, spherical, approx. 15 mm (0.6 in.) long berry.
  • Habitat: Yards, gardens, wasteland. Ornamental.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Special-looking bladder cherry’s modest white flowers develop in the autumn into a juicy, cherry-like berry. At the same time the calyx begins to expand and eventually forms a loose orangey red hood with the ripe red berry shining reddish in the middle, like a paper lantern with a red light shining inside!

Bladder cherry is grown in Finland as an ornamental, and now and again it escapes in the most temperate parts of the south-west coast. It has been used in folk medicine especially in the treatment of kidney and bladder stones. This belief was according to the doctrine of signs, which held that a plant’s healing properties were reflected in its outward appearance. Bladder cherry’s fruit resembles the urinary bladder, at least from a distance, but it has no medicinal effect, although it would probably do no harm. They should not be carelessly recommended to anyone however as the raw berries contain small amounts of poisonous solanine. This is not much of a problem, however, as the berries taste sour, bitter or even totally objectionable.

Goldenberry & Tomatillo

Physalis peruviana & Physalis philadelphica

Sometimes, apart from in your local fruit shop, it is also possible to come across goldenberry, also known as Cape gooseberry, goldenberry, husk cherry, Peruvian ground cherry, poha, poha berry) around dumps and waste ground. This South American relative of bladder cherry has leaves with a cordate base, a yellowish corolla, and a modest yellowish brown calyx which protects and orangey yellow berry. Goldenberry is a perennial.
Tomatillo is an annual and it quite much looks like goldenberry. In Finland it is quite rare cultivated plant. The name tomatillo comes from Spanish meaning small tomato. Tomatillo’s ‘tomatoes’ are not edible without cooking.

Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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