Physalis heterophylla (Clammy Ground Cherry)


Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 161. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society. Scanned by Omnitek Inc.

Where Commonly Found: Dry woods and clearings, CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT.

How to Identify:
(For unfamiliar words: Wikipedia Glossary of Botanical Terms).
Go Botany Key for Physalis heterophylla.
Illinois Wildflower’s description of Physallis heterophylla.  Click on more images.

WARNING:  UNRIPE BERRIES AND LEAVES are highly toxic, may be fatal if eaten.  Ripe fruits are supposedly edible…caution!!

Flower Color:  Light yellow/green with large brown nectar guides.
Flower Type:  Radial, 5 petals.  
Nodding single flowers, 1/2″ – 1″ wide, funnel-like, hanging from the leaf axils. 
Flower Time:  July to September
Leaf Arrangement:  Alternate, Stems are branching, and have sticky-glandular hairs, hence the “clammy” name,  mixed with longer, nonglandular hairs.  
Leaf Type:  Simple, 1″ – 3″ long, oval or triangular, with irregular teeth, though sometimes entire and rather pubescent surface.  Petioles are u-shaded in cross-section, pubescent on the lower, rounded site while the flat upper part is mostly glabrous.  Older leaves are less pubescent.
Height: 1′-3′
Seed Collection:  Ripe fruit, yellow, has papery veined husk, (closely related to a tomatillo), 1/2″ wide, hairy and rounded oblong.  Let fruit become overripe before harvesting.  Remove the papery husk and let the fruit dry.  Then remove the fleshy coating to retrieve the closely-packed, flat, round seeds.

Attracts:  Bees, birds.
Use:  Naturalizing, some may consider nearly invasive, spreading with lateral roots that are 2″ – 4″ below the soil surface and may run 4′ or more.
Light:  Full sun to part shade
Hardiness Zone: 7 – 10  USDA Zone Map
Soils:  Dry
Notes:  Not a particularly showy plant, but certainly an interesting native, worth considering in a place where a massing would be beneficial.  Not really hardy in northern parts of the New England/New York region.
Native to most of US east of the Rocky Mountains:  Biota of North America Program (BONAP) – North American Plant Atlas (NAPA).


Requested by Edgewood Nursery.

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