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Help identify strange ground cherry (pic heavy)

Posted by tripod z9 League City, TX (My Page) on
Fri, May 8, 09 at 20:15

I traded for a couple types of ground cherry seeds this past winter - Aunt Molly's and Cape Gooseberry. Both sets of plants are thriving and producing. I have already sampled my first fruit from the Aunt Molly's bushes...and it is good!

The problem seems to be with the purported Cape Gooseberry. While it is healthy, vigorous, and producing lots of fruit, none of it is edible or looks like any pictures I have seen for this species. Please, take a look below and let me know if anything rings a bell.

Aunt Molly's plant (low and sprawling)
Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry

Cape Gooseberry? plant (upright, 48" and growing)
Cape Gooseberry?

Cape Gooseberry? lavender flower (all pictures of Physalis type flowers are yellow or cream colored)
Cape Gooseberry? lavender flower

Cape Gooseberry? ripe fruit on plant (it does not fall off like Aunt Molly's)
Cape Gooseberry? ripe fruit

Comparison of Cape Gooseberry? and Aunt Molly's fruits with husks (CG on left, AM on right)

Comparison of Cape Gooseberry? and Aunt Molly's fruits (CG on left, AM on right)

Cape Gooseberry? fruit opened up (all seeds and very little, dryish pulp)
Opened Cape Gooseberry?

The plant is obviously of the Physalis group, but definitely not one with edible fruit! I'm thinking that it might be one of the Chinese Lanterns, but I can't find any documented that have lavender flowers. Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks in advance,

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help identify strange ground cherry (pic heavy)

Yes, you are absolutely correct, it's not a Physallis at all, although it is a relative. What you have there is not a Cape Gooseberry, it's Nicandra physalloides, common name "Shoo-fly plant" This Physallis relative is native to S. America, grows up to six feet tall, and bears the dry, physallis-like pods you see on your plants. It' often grown as an ornamental, and the branches of pods, once dried, do make a nice accent in floral work.

The plant itself is toxic, and can be used to make insecticide teas or powders similar to rotenone, or so it's claimed. However, when I've grown it, I've found it susceptible to whitefly, so I question how insecticidal it may be -- perhaps it depends on the pest species.

RE: Help identify strange ground cherry (pic heavy)

  • Posted by tripod z9 League City, TX (My Page) on
    Sat, May 9, 09 at 11:17

Thanks for zeroing in on the plant. What a great knowledge base we have here on GardenWeb! There's always an answer (or three) just around the corner. Too bad the fruit isn't edible since the plant is so vigorous and productive.

Now, does anyone out there have real Cape Gooseberry (or Giant Cape Gooseberry) seeds to trade? I've got a huge assortment of squash, melon, tomato, and other random vegetable seeds to well as some Nicandra physalloides. ;)


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