Sunday, May 27, 2018

Coastal Groundcherry - Physalis angustifolia

Florida is home to 9 native groundcherries, also known as tomatillos and relatives to tomatoes (Solanum spp.). Coastal groundcherry (Physalis angustifolia) is found throughout Florida in mostly coastal counties and several other states in the Southeastern Coastal Plain - Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  It is most common at the edge of hammocks and pinelands, though it is not especially picky about habitat.

Coastal groundcherry has distinctive foliage. The leaves are narrow and 2-4 inches in length. On closer examination, it can be seen that they also are covered with sparse "hairs".  The leaf margins are without teeth.  This is a perennial and remains evergreen in south Florida, but dies back to the ground further north.  At maturity, the plants stand 1-2 feet tall.  Flowering can occur throughout the growing season,  The pendant solitary yellow blooms are trumpet shaped and a bit less than 1-inch in length.  Like other members of the genus, the ripened fruit (a small tomatillo) is enclosed in a papery lantern-like structure (the calyx). The fruit are yellow when ripe. They are eaten by a variety of wildlife and are edible for humans as well.

With the increased interest in permaculture and in edible landscapes in general, a few members of this species are being cultivated by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Walter's groundcherry is currently listed by Silent Natives in Miami and by Sweet Bay Nursery in Parrish.  Groundcherries are relatively easy to cultivate and they will spread from their fruit if allowed to ripen and fall to the ground.  Give the plants a mostly sunny location and average moisture.

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