More splashes of orange in the Physic Garden this month to bring colour as the days shorten. Chinese lanterns, growing in the flower bed on the West wall are doing their best to lighten the darker days.
With the Latin name Physalis alkekengi the plant belongs to the potato family, Solanaceae, and is a relative of the Cape Gooseberry. It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 60cm tall with spirally arranged leaves. The flowers are white with a five lobed corolla with an inflated basal calyx which matures into the papery orange fruit which gives the plant its common name.
It is a popular ornamental plant which can become invasive and unpopular with its wide spreading root system sending up shoots some distance from where it was originally planted. The flowers are often dried and used in floral displays especially at Halloween. The plant is however, poisonous. The unripe berries of the Chinese Lantern plant can be highly toxic and possibly fatal although the ripe fruit is edible. The leaves are also poisonous. BEWARE!