|Physalis alkekengi fruit with the red husk|
Physalis alkekengi (bladder cherry, Chinese lantern, Japanese-lantern, strawberry groundcherry, or winter cherry) is a distant relative of the new world P. peruviana (Cape gooseberry). This species is native to Asia unlike the rest of Physalis that is native to the Americas. It is easily identifiable by the large, bright orange to red papery covering over its fruit, which resembles paper lanterns. It grows naturally in the regions covering Southern Europe to South Asia and Northeast Asia. It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with spirally arranged leaves 6–12 cm long and 4–9 cm broad. The flowers are white, with a five-lobed corolla 10–15 mm across, with an inflated basal calyx which matures into the papery orange fruit covering, 4–5 cm long and broad.
It is a popular ornamental plant, widely cultivated in temperate regions of the world, and very hardy to below −20 °C (−4 °F). It can be invasive with its wide-spreading root system sending up new shoots some distance from where it was originally planted. In various places around the world, it has escaped from cultivation.
Like a number of other species in the genus Physalis, it contains a wide variety of physalins. When isolated from the plant, these have antibacterial and leishmanicidal activities in vitro.
In Japan, its bright and lantern-like fruiting calyces form a traditional part of the Bon Festival as offerings intended to help guide the souls of the dead. A market devoted to it - hōzuki-ichi - is held every year on the 9th and 10th of July near the ancient Buddhist temple of Sensō-ji in Asakusa.
Physalis alkekengi seed fossils are known from Miocene of Siberia, Pliocene of Europe and Pleistocene of Germany. Pollen grains of Physalis alkekengi have been found in early Pleistocene sediments in Ludham east of Wroxham, East Anglia.
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- Kawai, M; Yamamoto, T; Makino, B; Yamamura, H; Araki, S; Butsugan, Y; Saito, K (2001), "The structure of physalin T from Physalis alkekengi var. franchetti.", Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, 3 (3): 199–205, doi:10.1080/10286020108041391, ISSN 1028-6020, PMID 11491395
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- leishmanicidal Archived 15 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
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