Grape groundcherry [Physalis
viscosa L.][Bayer code: none][CDFA list: B] Map of Distribution Photographs
Long-leaf groundcherry [Physalis
longifolia Nutt.][PHYLF][CDFA list: A] Map
of Distribution Photographs
Wright groundcherry [Physalis
acutifolia (Miers) Sandw.][Bayer code: none] Photographs
[Physalis philadelphica Lam.][PHYIX]
SYNONYMS: Complete synonymy for these
species is unclear and beyond the scope of this publication.
DESCRIPTION: Erect, bushy, or sprawling
plants with nodding, +/- bell-shaped, yellow to cream-colored flowers
and berries completely enclosed in loose papery husks (enlarged calyx).
There are numerous similar groundcherry species and varieties native to Central
and Southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America. Species identification is
difficult, and taxonomists have yet to completely resolve the taxonomy of
the genus. Confusion of species and varieties in publications has been common.
A few species are cultivated for their edible berries, but unripe fruits
of some species may be toxic if ingested. Foliage is suspected of being
toxic to livestock when ingested. However, animals usually avoid eating
plants when possible. Definitive studies concerning toxicity of foliage and
fruits are lacking.
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SEEDLINGS: Cotyledons lanceolate, ~ 3-12 mm long, ~ 1-4 mm wide. Subsequent
leaves ovate to lanceolate, sometimes pubescent, increasingly larger. Taproots
weak, with many fibrous lateral roots.
PLANT: Stems +/- weakly woody at the base
in perennials. Leaves alternate to +/- opposite near stem tops, variable,
typically ovate, lanceolate, or elliptic, with entire to irregularly coarse-toothed
margins. Refer to the table Comparison of
groundcherries (Physalis spp.): berries enclosed in papery husks
for descriptions of distinguishing characteristics.
and UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES:
FLOWERS: June-October. Flowers non-fragrant, axillary, solitary (rarely
in clusters of 2-5), typically pendant on stalks. Anthers shorter than filaments,
open by longitudinal slits. Insect-pollinated.
and SEEDS: Mature berries yellowish to orange
or purple, enclosed in pendant papery husks (enlarged calyx). Husks
loose, ovoid, ~ 15-35 mm long, 10-ribbed, +/- 10-angled to rounded. Berries
disperse enclosed in the husks. Seeds numerous, yellowish, +/- round to kidney-shaped,
flattened, minutely pitted, ~ 2 mm long.
CHARACTERISTICS: Husk skeletons can persist
on the ground for extended periods after berries decompose. Woody stems of
perennial species may persist through winter.
HABITAT: Disturbed, open places, waste areas, fields, roadsides, cultivated
PROPAGATION/PHENOLOGY: Reproduce by seed. Grape and longleaf groundcherry
also reproduce vegetatively from creeping roots. Berries disperse near
the parent plant or are transported to greater distances with water, animals,
and human activities such as cultivation and harvest operations. Animals often
consume berries and disperse seeds in their droppings. Passing through the
digestive tract of an animal appears to enhance grape groundcherry
seed germination. For other species, seed survival and germination enhancement
of ingested seed is undocumented. Seeds typically germinate in spring. Grape
and longleaf groundcherry root fragments as small as 1.5 cm long
can regenerate new plants under optimal conditions. Information regarding
seed germination requirements and longevity under field conditions is lacking.
FAVORING/DISCOURAGING SURVIVAL: Mowing plants
after berries develop facilitates seed dispersal. A one-week quarantine of
livestock coming from fields infested with plants in fruit can prevent seed
introduction into uninfested areas.
SPECIES: Lanceleaved groundcherry
[Physalis lanceifolia Nees] and downy groundcherry [Physalis
pubescens L. vars. grisea Waterf. and integrifolia (Dunal.)
Waterf.] are weedy summer annuals that grow in the same types of habitats
described previously, but also tolerate wet soils. Refer to the table Comparison
of groundcherries (Physalis spp.): berries enclosed in papery husks
for descriptions of distinguishing characteristics. Lanceleaved groundcherry
is sometimes troublesome in rice fields. It occurs in the Central Valley,
San Francisco Bay region, eastern South Coast Ranges, and Sonoran Desert,
to 200 m (660 ft). Introduced from South America. Downy groundcherry occurs
in the San Joaquin Valley and southwestern South Coast Ranges (var. integrifolia),
and southeastern Sierra Nevada and deserts (var. grisea), to 1500 m
(5000 ft). Introduced from Eastern U.S.
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Prevention: These groundcherries
are part of a taxonomically complex genus (Physalis) in the Solanaceae. The
native range of Physalis longifolia extends across much of the United States,
and P. viscosa is native to the south central United States. Neither species
is native to California. These plants are good colonizers of disturbed areas
and persist in agricultural fields and along roadsides and ditches. However,
they are also a natural component of prairie grasslands and are good competitors
for moisture and nutrients. There have been reports of hybridization between
Physalis virginiana and P. heterophylla. However, the hybridization potential
between P. virginiana and the native California Physalis spp. is unknown.
These perennials utilize several dispersal mechansms. Fruits abscise from
the plant, but normally remain within a protective bladder, that is wind and
water dispersed. In Australia, populations have rapidly spread along irrigation
ditches and waterways. Numerous animals, including foxes, birds, and livestock
readily eat the fruits, and seed viability appears to be enhanced after the
seeds pass through animals. Seed may also be spread in contaminated hay, or
other crop seed, such as alfalfa. On arable land, cultivation is the primary
means of spread. Shoots arise from root buds on lateral roots and new plants
may establish from rootstock pieces as small as 1.5 cm. Avoid infrequent cultivation
through groundcherry patches and thoroughly clean tillage equipment before
moving to uninfested fields.
Mechanical: As previously
suggested, infrequent cultivation is not recommended. However, intensive cultivation
every 7-10 days over the growing season may deplete energy reserves in the
roots and reduce infestations. Small patches may be repeatedly hoed in the
same fashion. Control may be better if conditions following tillage are warm
There is no available information on mowing as a control strategy. Mowing
during the early bud to flowering stage may reduce topgrowth and limit seed
production. However, it may result in an increase in shoot emergence from
adventitious buds on lateral roots. Mowing should never be done after seed
production, as this will likely facilitate seed dispersal.
Biological: Biological control
strategies have not been pursued for these species, which are native to other
areas of the United States. In Australia, the foliage of P. viscosa is suspected
to be toxic to livestock. However, livestock generally only consume the berries,
with no apparent ill effects. The berries of both species are valued for jam
making and other cooking purposes.
Established stands of either species are very strong competitors. However,
research from Australia has indicated that established stands of alfalfa and
some clovers effectively outcompete P. viscosa.
Chemical: Certain herbicides
provide effective control of these perennial groundcherry species. Table 1
provides herbicide information relevant to California.
Table 1. Herbicides effective for
Picloram, which is not currently
labeled in California, also provides excellent control of perennial groundcherry
species. Triclopyr has been proven less effective and is not recommended specifically
for groundcherry control. In Australia, clopyralid has been effective for
controlling P. viscosa. Always refer to the herbicide label for precautionary
information regarding safety and proper herbicide usage.