|Physalis alkekengi fruit with the red husk|
Physalis alkekengi (bladder cherry, Chinese lantern, Japanese-lantern, strawberry groundcherry, or winter cherry) is a relative of P. peruviana (Cape gooseberry). 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 seeds are used as part of the Bon Festival as offerings to guide the souls of the deceased. A market, hōzuki-ichi, held in Asakusa around Sensō-ji every year on 9 and 10 July, is devoted to it.
Physalis alkekengi seed fossils are known from Miocene of Siberia, Pliocene of Europe and Pleistocene of Germany. Physalis alkekengi pollen have been found in early Pleistocene sediments in Ludham east of Wroxham, East Anglia.
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