Bladder Cherry

A cosmopolitan genus of around 80 species of occasionally rhizomatous, upright or sprawling annuals and perennials. All produce numerous seeds in a globose berry, enclosed in an inflated calyx. Physalis alkekengi is popular as an ornamental for the papery, orange calyces surrounding the ripe fruits, and may be grown as an annual. It should not be confused with Solanum capsicastrum, which is also called "winter cherry". According to Dioscorides, the fruits of P. alkegengi are a cure for epilepsy. In European folk medicine the fruits were taken to relieve scarlet fever, and the foliage was used in tonics for anemia and malaria. In common with many species belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), P. alkegengi has an interesting chemistry but is rarely used in medicine today. The fruits, though edible, are less palatable than those of its relatives, P. ixocarpa (tomatillo, Mexican ground cherry), whose fruits are one of the main ingredients in salsa verde; P. philadelphica (wild tomatillo, purple ground cherry), used in C American chili sauces; and P. peruviana (Cape gooseberry), which is grown commercially as a dessert fruit.

Rhizomatous perennial with broadly ovate to diamond-shaped, pointed leaves, to 9cm (3½in) long. Pendent, 5-lobed, cream flowers appear in summer, followed by edible, orange to red berries surrounded by a papery calyx, to 5cm (2in) across.

Common Name:
Bladder Cherry
Other Names:
Chinese Lantern, Bladder Cherry
Botanical Name:
Physalis alkekengi
Native Location:
C and S Europe, and from W Asia to Japan.
Well-drained soil in sun or light shade.
By seed sown in spring; by division in spring.
Fruits are harvested when ripe and used fresh; as juice, or dried. For medicinal use, the calyx is removed. Leaves are picked in summer and used fresh as a poultice.
60-75cm (24-30in)
90cm (36in) or more.
Parts Used:
Fruits, Fruit juice.
A bitter-sweet, diuretic, laxative herb that lowers fever and reduces inflammation.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for intermittent fevers, urinary disorders, kidney and bladder stones, arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. Leaves formerly used externally for skin inflammations. Used in homeopathy for arthritic, rheumatic, and urinary disorders, and jaundice.
Foliage and unripe fruits are harmful if eaten.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pps. 313-314