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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Groundcherries  (Physalis spp.)

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Life stages of Groundcherries flower and fruit seedling seeds mature plant young plant

Groundcherry species are bushy summer annual or perennial broadleaf plants. Flower and fruit color and seed shape vary with species. In fact, species identification is challenging and the taxonomy of the species has yet to be resolved. A few species have been cultivated for their edible berries. However, there are reports that unripe fruit and leaves of some species may be toxic when ingested. The toxicity of any Physalisspecies, however, has not been confirmed experimentally. Groundcherry inhabits disturbed open and unmanaged places, roadsides, crop fields, orchards, and vineyards. Tomatillo, P. philadelphica, lanceleaved , P. lanceifolia, and wright groundcherry, P. acutifolia, plants are shown here.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are yellow green to gray green. First leaves are oval to triangular, with smooth or slightly wavy edges, and a strong odor when crushed.

Mature plant

Mature plants have erect, hairy stems with many branches. Leaves are oval, triangular, or lance shaped, with toothed, smooth, or wavy edges, depending on the species and growing conditions.


Narrow bell-shaped flowers have five lobes and yellow, whitish with yellow, green, or purple centers.


A distinctive papery husk, often with green or purple veins, surrounds a green, yellowish, or purple fruit, the size of a cherry.


Seeds are small and round or kidney shaped.


Reproduces by seed.

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