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Physalis alkekengi franchetii1SHSU.jpg
Alkekengi officinarum fruit with the red husk
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Subfamily: Solanoideae
Tribe: Physaleae
Genus: Alkekengi
A. officinarum
Binomial name
Alkekengi officinarum
  • Physalis alkekengi L.
  • Boberella alkekengi (L.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Physalis alkekengi var. anthoxantha H. Lév.
  • Physalis alkekengi var. orientalis Pamp.
  • Physalis ciliata Siebold & Zucc.
  • Physalis halicacabum Crantz
  • Physalis hyemalis Salisb.
  • Physalis kansuensis Pojark.

Alkekengi officinarum, the bladder cherry,[2] Chinese lantern,[3] Japanese-lantern,[4] strawberry groundcherry,[5] or winter cherry,[3] is a species of flowering plant in the nightshade family Solanaceae. It is a close relative of the new world Calliphysalis carpenteri (Carpenter's groundcherry) and a somewhat more distant relative to the members of the Physalis genus.[6] This species is native to the regions covering Southern Europe to South Asia and Northeast Asia.


It is easily identifiable by the large, bright orange to red papery covering over its fruit, which resembles paper lanterns. 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. And it has one variety, Alkekengi officinarum var. franchetii.

Research has shown Calliphysalis carpenteri (formerly classified as Physalis carpenteri) to be among the most closely related species to Physalis alkekengi.[6]


Mature plant
The orange "lanterns" (fruiting calyces) of Alkekengi officinarum lose their bright colour and papery appearance during the winter, and by the spring become delicately beautiful, skeletal networks of beige veins revealing the orange-red berries within.

It is a popular ornamental plant, widely cultivated in temperate regions of the world, and very hardy to below −20 °C (−4 °F).[7] 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.[8]

In the United Kingdom it has been given the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7][9]

Traditional uses[edit]

The dried fruit is called the golden flower in the Unani system of medicine, and used as a diuretic, antiseptic, liver corrective, and sedative.[10]

In Chinese medicine, Alkekengi is used to treat such conditions as abscesses, coughs, fevers, and sore throat.[11] 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 Alkekengi officinarum, but the name more likely refers to ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).[12]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Alkekengi officinarum contains a wide variety of physalins.[13][14][15] When isolated from the plant, these have antibacterial[16] and leishmanicidal[17][18] activities in vitro.

It also contains caffeic acid ethyl ester, 25,27-dehydro-physalin L, physalin D, and cuneataside E.[19]

Cultural significance[edit]

Hozuki Market in Japan

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 9–10 July near the ancient Buddhist temple of Sensō-ji in Asakusa.

Fossil record[edit]

Alkekengi seed fossils are known from Miocene of Siberia, Pliocene of Europe and Pleistocene of Germany.[20] Pollen grains of Alkekengi officinarum have been found in early Pleistocene sediments in Ludham east of Wroxham, East Anglia.[21]

Taxonomic history[edit]

Alkekengi officinarum was previously included in the genus Physalis until molecular and genetic evidence placed it as the type species of a new genus.[22][23]


  1. ^ The Plant List
  2. ^ "Physalis alkekengi". Eppo.
  3. ^ a b "Alkekengi officinarum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  4. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  5. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Physalis alkekengi". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  6. ^ a b Whitson, Maggie; Manos, Paul S. (2005). "Untangling Physalis (Solanaceae) from the Physaloids: A Two-Gene Phylogeny of the Physalinae". Systematic Botany. 30 (1): 216–230. doi:10.1600/0363644053661841. ISSN 0363-6445. JSTOR 25064051. S2CID 86411770.
  7. ^ a b "RHS Plantfinder - Physalis alkekengi". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  8. ^ "1. Physalis alkekengi Linnaeus". Flora of China.
  9. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 78. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  10. ^ Rasheed N.M.A., Shareef M.A., Ahmad M., Gupta V.C., Arfin S., Shamshad A.K. "HPTLC finger print profile of dried fruit of Physalis alkekengi Linn." Pharmacognosy Journal 2010 2:12 (464–469).
  11. ^ Duke, J. A.; Ayensu, E. S (1985). Reference Publications, Inc. (ed.). Medicinal Plants of China. ISBN 978-0-917256-20-2. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
  12. ^ Berendes, J. (ed.) Arzneimittellehre in fünf Büchern des Pedanios Dioskurides aus Anazarbos. Stuttgart. 1902. 405-08.
  13. ^ Matsuura, T; Kawai, M; Makashima, R; Butsugan, Y (1970), "Structures of physalin A and physalin B, 13,14-seco-16,24-cyclo-steroids from Physalis alkekengi var. Francheti.", Journal of the Chemical Society, Perkin Transactions 1, 5 (5): 664–70, doi:10.1039/j39700000664, ISSN 0300-922X, PMID 5461642
  14. ^ Qiu, L; Zhao, F; Jiang, Zh; Chen, Lx; Zhao, Q; Liu, Hx; Yao, Xs; Qiu, F (April 2008), "Steroids and flavonoids from Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii and their inhibitory effects on nitric oxide production.", Journal of Natural Products, 71 (4): 642–6, doi:10.1021/np700713r, PMID 18348534
  15. ^ 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, S2CID 26532208
  16. ^ Silva, M.T.G.; Simas, S.M.; Batista, T.G.; Cardarelli, P.; Tomassini, T.C.B. (2005). "Studies on antimicrobial activity, in vitro, of Physalis angulata L. (Solanaceae) fraction and physalin B bringing out the importance of assay determination". Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 100 (7): 779–82. doi:10.1590/s0074-02762005000700018. PMID 16410969.
  17. ^ leishmanicidal Archived 15 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Choudhary M.I., Yousaf S., Ahmed S., Samreen, Yasmeen K., Atta-ur-Rahmang "Antileishmanial physalins from Physalis minima" Chemistry and Biodiversity 2005 2:9 (1164-1173).
  19. ^ YUAN Ye, XU Nan, BU Xian-kun, ZHAN Hong-li, ZHANG Meng-meng Chemical constituents of Physalis alkekengivar. franchetii (II) "Chinese Traditional and Herbal Drugs" (Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dalian 116600, China).
  20. ^ The Pliocene flora of Kholmech, south-eastern Belarus and its correlation with other Pliocene floras of Europe by Felix Yu. VELICHKEVICH and Ewa ZASTAWNIAK - Acta Palaeobot. 43(2): 137–259, 2003
  21. ^ History of the British Flora: A Factual Basis for Phytogeography by Sir Harry Godwin, Cambridge University Press, first published 1956, second edition 1975, ISBN 9780521269414
  22. ^ "Alkekengi officinarum - Species Page - NYFA: New York Flora Atlas". Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  23. ^ "Plant database entry for Chinese Lantern (Alkekengi officinarum) with 35 images, 2 comments, and 26 data details". Retrieved 18 August 2022.

External links[edit]