Beautiful, but be careful!

Chinese LanternChinese Lantern (physalis alkekengi) is a truly fascinating plant. First, there are little white flowers. Then, in late summer, they develop into fruits, protected by larger, papery pods – green at first, but later becoming bright orange, perfectly resembling little Chinese Lanterns! Inside is a perfect, red berry…
When the lanterns have received their full colouring you can easily cut them and bring them indoors – they keep their colour for a long time and are very pretty in autumn arrangements – or for Halloween.
The berries are edible when ripe, and contain more vitamin c than lemons! They don’t taste very good by themselves (they’re very sour), but can be used for jams and jellies.

This highly ornamental plant can be successfully grown in the shade or in sunny spots. In fact, they are aggressive spreaders, so it’s best to grow them in a container if you don’t want the entire garden to be taken over (or if you have a balcony)! They like moist soil, so watering is necessary in dry times or climates.

So far so good, right? But here comes the bad part… Chinese lantern 2

Only the ripe berries can be eaten. The rest of the plant, especially the leaves and unripe berries, is very poisonous!!! It contains solanine, the same stuff that makes green potatoes and tomato leaves toxic.

So.. I guess you’ll have to be a bit careful with this pretty plant in your garden – especially with little kids around!

xxx Esther

9 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Courtney | August 11, 2008 | Reply

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these before! (And I grew up on a flower farm!)
I love the idea of a ‘chinese lantern’ flower centerpiece on Thanksgiving…

2. kim | August 11, 2008 | Reply

Love these lantarns, my parents had them in the garden and I remember my mam cutting some branches of and putting them in a vase and they were so facinating like out of a fairytale. They are beautiful. Didn’t know they were poisonos though….

3. Kidlet | August 11, 2008 | Reply

I’ve had an interest in plants of this family every since doing a germination experiment using clammy ground cherries in botany class :)

Even at that time I didn’t realize the fruit was edible, but I was aware that the plant itself was poisonous so you can imagine my shock during my first visit to Europe when virtually every desert was accompanied by the berries.

These days I count them among my favourite fruits!

4. Elaine Clark | March 29, 2014

How do you grow these ??

5. Michela | August 11, 2008 | Reply

I have never seen them in my life!
You dutch are magic when it comes to flowers!

6. sheena | March 16, 2012 | Reply

what do i do with berries to grow from seed?

7. jen | February 12, 2013 | Reply

I have these all over my yard and have two little ones who collect them all summer and fall. Did not know they were poisonous. So I am reading the berry is edible? Outside poisonous. Precautionary suggestions please, would love to eat them but of course not get poisoned.

8. Adele | October 14, 2013 | Reply

What do I need to do to have the orange pods turn to the spider like pod ? I would love to put both of them in my fall arrangements.

Thanks,

9. Elaine Clark | March 29, 2014 | Reply

I love these my Mom grew them when I was young. But alas ! I have never been able to grow them. they never germinate for me. i need help? Any one know how to grow these. i am longing for some dried ones in a vase in my house.
Elaine

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