Latin Name: Physalis viscosa
Origin: Native of North and South America.
Alternative Name(s): Prairie Ground Cherry, Sticky Ground Cherry
Known Hazards: Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where many of the members have poisonous leaves and stems, though the full ripe fruits are usually edible.
Habitat: Coastal sand dunes, sandy woods near the coast, pinelands and pastures.
Edibility Rating: 4 (1-5)
Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)
Physical Characteristics: Perennial herb to 60 cm high. Leaves to 5 (rarely to 6) cm long and to 3 (rarely to 4) cm wide, light green, margins undulate. Fruit orange when ripe, contained in a dull yellow-green joined sepals (calyx) 15–30 mm long, drying light brown. Seeds disc-shaped, sticky, 1.7–2.3 mm long.
Flowers: Petals joined in a tube (corolla) 11–15 mm long. Flowers summer and autumn.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Distinguishing features: Distinguished by rhizomatous rootstock; plants sparsely hairy with minute forked hairs at least on calyx margins; narrow-ovate leaves; flowers with pale yellow corolla often with olive-yellow blotches between stamens, flower stalks 7–12 mm long; fruiting calyx papery, inflated, 10-angled in cross-section, containing a globe-shaped berry 10–15 mm wide.
Dispersal: Spread as seed by animals that eat the fruit, fruit floating on water and by cultivation spreading cut root sections.
Confused With: Other Physalis species. Most likely to be confused with Perennial Ground Cherry, Physalis virginiana, another rhizomatous species although this one has minute simple hairs or is hairless.
Edible fruit – raw or cooked. Juicy and thin-skinned with a pleasant sub-acid cherry-like flavour.Said to be the best N. American species. The plant conveniently wraps up each fruit in its own ‘paper bag’ (botanically, the calyx) to protect it from pests and the elements. This calyx is toxic and should not be eaten.
Aperient; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Poultice; Tonic. The fruit is aperient and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of gravel, suppression of urine etc and is highly recommended in fevers and in gout. The leaves and stems are febrifuge and slightly tonic. They are used in the treatment of the malaise that follows malaria, and for weak or anaemic people. The root has been used as a dressing on wounds.
Notes: Seeds germinate and plants reshoot from roots in spring, growing over summer, aerial growth dies in autumn. Weed of irrigated land, railways and roadsides. Cultivation tends to spread plants. Fruit edible.