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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: Tracheophytes
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 75–90 may exist, 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 yellow to orange, similar in size, shape, and structure to a small tomato (hence the name husk tomatoes).

At least 46 species are endemic to 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 gooseberries of the genus Ribes (family Grossulariaceae). Other names used to refer to the fruit are husk cherries, poha berries, and golden berries.[6]


Physalis species are herbaceous plants growing to 0.4 to 3.0 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 peruviana fruit with calix open

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[7] 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.[8]

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 spp. are widely cultivated in India.

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.[9] 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 P. alkekengi, but the name more likely refers to ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).[10]


Yellow nightshade groundcherry (Physalis crassifolia)
Physalis peruviana fruits

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

Species include:[5][11]

Strawberry groundcherry (Physalis pruinosa)

Formerly placed here[edit]

Fossil record[edit]

A 52 million year old fossil fruit of Physalis has been found in Patagonia.[13]


  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. S2CID 86411770.
  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. S2CID 11564.
  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. ^ Angier, Bradford (1974). Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 90. ISBN 0-8117-0616-8. OCLC 799792.
  8. ^ Gibbons, Euell (1962). Stalking the Wild Asparagus. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Alan C. Hood & Company, Inc. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-911469-03-5.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Berendes, J. (ed.) Arzneimittellehre in fünf Büchern des Pedanios Dioskurides aus Anazarbos. Stuttgart. 1902. 405-08.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Switek, Brian. "Paleo Profile: Tomatillo from the End of the World".
  13. ^

External links[edit]