Physalis virginiana (Virginia Ground Cherry)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; sandy soil, prairies, waste areas, along railroads|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||1 to 2 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers hang down on stalks that arise from a leaf axil. Flowers are about ¾ inch across, bell-shaped with 5 shallow lobes, pale yellow with dark greenish to purple-brown spots on the inside at the base of the throat, and hairy on the outer surface. There are 5 creamy yellow stamens with yellow or purple tips. The calyx has 5 pointed lobes and is very hairy. One plant has a few to about a dozen flowers on branching stems.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are to 3 inches long and ¾ inch wide with a pointed tip and tapering at the base, the stalks covered in stiff hairs. The edges are toothless or with a few irregular teeth, sometimes a bit wavy. Surfaces are variously covered in short hairs, sometimes hairless. Stems are branched, mostly angled, and covered in stiff hairs.
The flowers of Virginia Ground Cherry are nearly identical to those of Clammy Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla), which is distinguished by the broader, more egg-shaped leaves that are more consistently toothed with larger teeth, and is more softly hairy overall, where Virginia Ground Cherry is more stiffly hairy. The fruit of both species are edible when ripe. A third species that is uncommon in Minnesota, Long-leaf Ground Cherry (Physalis longifolia), also has similar flowers but is mostly hairless, has larger, toothier leaves, and is a more robust plant.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at McKnight Prairie, Goodhue County, and Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos by Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?