Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Ground Cherry (Physalis pubescens)

Ground cherries grow almost wherever there is ground. We have two species in the area; both produce edible fruit inside their little Japanese lanterns, although it’s not usually much good until a week or two after it falls off the plant. (The papery lantern is toxic, so don’t eat it.) This Physalis pubescens grew in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon.

The flowers face downward and so are easily missed, but they’re worth examining closer. The color is primrose yellow with mahogany splotches around the center. They look like little Tiffany lanpshades, almost always held wide open and facing the ground.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

Calyx 5-cleft, reticulated and enlarging after flowering, at length much inflated and inclosing the 2-celled globular (edible) berry. Corolla between wheel-shaped and funnel-form, the very short tube marked with 5 concave spots at the base; the plaited border somewhat 5-lobed or barely 5-10-toothed. Stamens 5, erect; anthers separate, opening lengthwise. Ours herbs with extra-axillary peduncles; flowering through the summer. (Name physalis, a bladder, from the inflated calyx.)

P. pubescens L. Pubescent but not hoary; leaves thin, entire at least near the oblique but rarely cordate base; stem slender, geniculate, diffusely branched; fruiting calyx subglobose, shortly acuminate, carinately b-angled. Pa. to Va., and westw.

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