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Temporal range: Early Eocene (Ypresian) to Recent, 52–0 Ma
Starr 061225-2955 Physalis peruviana.jpg
Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) leaves and fruit
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Subfamily: Solanoideae
Tribe: Physaleae
Genus: Physalis

About 75-90; see text


Alkekengi Mill.
Herschellia Bowdich ex Rchb.
Pentaphitrum Rchb.[1]

Physalis (/ˈfsəlɪs/, /fɪ-/, /fˈslɪs/, /-ˈsæ-/, from φυσαλλίς phusallís "bladder"[2]) is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which grow in warm temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Most of the species, of which there may be 75–90, are indigenous to the Americas. Cultivated species and weedy annuals have been introduced worldwide. A notable feature is the formation of a large papery husk derived from the calyx, which partly or fully encloses the fruit.[3] The fruit is small and orange, similar in size, shape and structure to a small tomato (hence the name husk tomatoes).

At least 46 species are endemic to the country of Mexico.[4]

Many Physalis species are called groundcherries.[5] One name for Physalis peruviana is Inca berry; another is Cape gooseberry, not to be confused with the true gooseberries, which are of the genus Ribes in the family Grossulariaceae. Other names used to refer to the fruit are poha berries, and simply golden berries.[6]


Physalis are herbaceous plants growing to 0.4 to 3 m tall, similar to the common tomato, a plant of the same family, but usually with a stiffer, more upright stem. They can be either annual or perennial. Most require full sun and fairly warm to hot temperatures. Some species are sensitive to frost, but others, such as the Chinese lantern, P. alkekengi, tolerate severe cold when dormant in winter.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Physalis sp. fruit with husk

These plants grow in most soil types and do very well in poor soils and in pots. They require moisture until fruiting. Plants are susceptible to many of the common tomato diseases and pests, and other pests such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and the false potato beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta) also attack them. Propagation is by seed. Some species are self-incompatible and require pollen from other plants to bear fruit.

Not all Physalis species bear edible fruit. Select species are cultivated for their edible fruit, however; the typical Physalis fruit is similar to a firm tomato in texture, and like strawberries or pineapple in flavor, with a mild acidity. Some species, such as the Cape gooseberry and tomatillo have been bred into many cultivars with varying flavors, from tart to sweet to savory. Physalis fruit are rich in cryptoxanthin.The fruit can be used like the tomato. Once extracted from its husk, it can be eaten raw and used in salads. Some varieties are added to desserts, used as flavoring, made into fruit preserves, or dried and used like raisins. They contain pectin and can be used in pie filling. Ground cherries are called Poha in the Hawaiian language, and poha jam and preserves are traditional desserts made from Physalis plants grown on the Hawaiian Islands.[7]

The Cape gooseberry is native to the Americas, but is common in many subtropical areas. Its use in South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope inspired its common name. Other species of commercial importance include the tomatillo (P. philadelphica). Some nations, such as Colombia, have a significant economic trade in Physalis fruit. Physalis is widely cultivated in India, where it is known as Tipari or Rashbari (Hindi), Tepari (Bengali), Bandoola (Kannada), and Mottaampuli (Malayalam), also having other names in other Indian languages.[citation needed]

Some species are grown as ornamental plants. For example, the hardy Physalis alkekengi has edible small fruits but is most popular for its large, bright orange to red husks.

In Chinese medicine, Physalis species are used to treat such conditions as abscesses, coughs, fevers, and sore throat.[8] Smooth groundcherry (P. subglabrata) is classified (erroneously) as a hallucinogenic plant, and its cultivation for other than ornamental purposes is outlawed in the US state of Louisiana under State Act 159.

The extinct Dacian language has left few traces, but in De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscorides, a plant called Strychnos alikakabos (Στρύχνος άλικακάβος) is discussed, which was called kykolis (or cycolis) by the Dacians. Some have considered this plant to be Physalis alkekengi, but the name more likely refers to ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).[9]


Yellow nightshade groundcherry (Physalis crassifolia)

As of 2005, about 75 to 90 species were in the genus.[3]

Species include:[5][10]

Strawberry groundcherry (Physalis pruinosa)

Formerly placed here[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Genus: Physalis L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-09-01. Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  2. ^ "Physalis | Definition of physalis in English by Oxford Dictionaries".
  3. ^ a b Whitson, M.; Manos, P. S. (2005). "Untangling Physalis (Solanaceae) from the physaloids: a two-gene phylogeny of the Physalinae". Systematic Botany. 30 (1): 216–30. doi:10.1600/0363644053661841. JSTOR 25064051.
  4. ^ a b c Vargas, O.; et al. (2001). "Two new species of Physalis (Solanaceae) endemic to Jalisco, Mexico". Brittonia. 53 (4): 505–10. doi:10.1007/bf02809650.
  5. ^ a b "Physalis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  6. ^ Doctor, Vikram (4 March 2013). "Golden berry: Decoding the acid freshness and wild sweet taste of physalis". The Economic Times. Retrieved 6 Sep 2014.
  7. ^ Gibbons, Euell (1962). Stalking the Wild Asparagus. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Alan C. Hood & Company, Inc. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-911469-03-5.
  8. ^ Duke, J. A.; Ayensu, E. S (1985). Reference Publications, Inc. (ed.). Medicinal Plants of China. ISBN 978-0-917256-20-2. Retrieved 2009-05-15.
  9. ^ Berendes, J. (ed.) Arzneimittellehre in fünf Büchern des Pedanios Dioskurides aus Anazarbos. Stuttgart. 1902. 405-08.
  10. ^ a b c "GRIN Species Records of Physalis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  11. ^ Switek, Brian. "Paleo Profile: Tomatillo from the End of the World".

External links[edit]