Physalis (Grr. , a bladder, in reference to the inflated calyx), a genus of annual and perennial herbs, of the solanacece or nightshade family, comprising about 50 species, several of which are North American and two or three cultivated in gardens. Those in cultivation, though having perennial rootstocks, are treated as annuals; they have branched spreading stems, which with the triangular or somewhat heart-shaped leaves are viscid-hairy; the solitary flowers are nodding on extra-axillary peduncles, with a five-cleft calyx, and a greenish white or yellowish corolla, between wheel-shaped and funnel-formed; five erect stamens, and a two-celled ovary, which when ripe becomes a two-celled, juicy, edible berry; after flowering and during the development of the fruit, the calyx grows very rapidly, and at maturity is thin, five-angled, much netted, and completely envelops the fruit in a balloon-shaped covering much larger than itself. The species most generally cultivated in this country is P. Peruviana (P. edulis and P. esculen-ta of some authors), which is known as strawberry tomato, ground and winter cherry, and yellow alkekengi; in England it is called Cape gooseberry, and by the French cerise d'hiver and cerise de Juif. Its specific name indicates its native country.
Its pale yellow flowers are spotted with purple; the fruit is about half an inch in diameter, yellowish or amber-colored, and semi-transparent at maturity, the calyx becoming a dull yellowish or light drab color. The berries enclosed in the calyx fall as soon as full grown, and do not usually reach complete ripeness until they have been kept for some days; they have a decided fruity flavor, something like that of the strawberry, though the after taste is not so pleasant; if spread thinly and kept from freezing, they retain their qualities through the winter; preserved with sugar with the addition of lemon juice, they make an acceptable sweetmeat. The cultivation is the same as that for the tomato; the plants come up abundantly from self-sown seed, and it is disposed to be a weed. The alkekengi (from the Arabic, P. alkekengi), from the south of Europe, has smoother leaves than the preceding, greenish white unspotted flowers, a brilliant scarlet berry, and the husk or enclosing calyx of the same color, rendering the plant quite ornamental; the fruit has similar qualities to the preceding, but it is very much less cultivated in gardens. The calyx of both species is used in making skeleton bouquets, the cellular tissue being separated by macerating and leaving only the network of fibres.
The native P. Philadelphia is nearly smooth, with an erect stem and yellowish flowers which are dark colored in the centre, and has a globose calyx completely filled by a dark purple berry an inch in diameter; it is abundant in some southern and western localities, and is sometimes cultivated as the purple alkekengi, purple strawberry tomato, etc, for its fruit, which is used for preserving.
Winter Cherry (Physalis Peruviana) - Flower and Leaves.
Fruiting Calyx, and Calyx opened.