Ground Cherry or Chinese Lantern

Physalis

The genus Physalis includes many species in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).  There are about 25+ species in North America.  The fruit of all these species is similar to a small tomato, but it is enclosed in a husk, like a tomatilla. The papery covering over the fruit resembles a lantern, and so ground cherry also goes by another common name, Chinese Lantern.

The pendant ground cherry flower is yellow, with a brownish center. Reach down to lift the downward-facing flower up, and you will see that the pretty corolla has five parts with pointed lobes.

The ground cherry is native to Virginia and can be found blooming along roadsides and in waste places in late summer.  Many members of the nightshade family have poisonous leaves and stems, but most have fruits that are edible.

Physalis has been used in chinese medicine for  sore throats and infections.  One species, Physalis subglabrata, is considered a hallucinogen.

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