Physalis virginiana (Virginia Ground Cherry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Solanaceae (Potato)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy soil, prairies, waste areas, along railroads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell

[photo of flowers] Flowers hang down on stalks that arise from a leaf axil. Flowers are about ¾ inch across, bell-shaped with 5 shallow lobes, pale yellow with dark greenish to purple-brown spots on the inside at the base of the throat, and hairy on the outer surface. There are 5 creamy yellow stamens with yellow or purple tips. The calyx has 5 pointed lobes and is very hairy. One plant has a few to about a dozen flowers on branching stems.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are to 3 inches long and ¾ inch wide with a pointed tip and tapering at the base, the stalks covered in stiff hairs. The edges are toothless or with a few irregular teeth, sometimes a bit wavy. Surfaces are variously covered in short hairs, sometimes hairless. Stems are branched, mostly angled, and covered in stiff hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a green berry that ripens to red-orange. The persistent calyx inflates and becomes a papery shell shaped like an inverted tear drop that swells up and dries to tan as the fruit matures.


The flowers of Virginia Ground Cherry are nearly identical to those of Clammy Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla), which is distinguished by the broader, more egg-shaped leaves that are more consistently toothed with larger teeth, and is more softly hairy overall, where Virginia Ground Cherry is more stiffly hairy. The fruit of both species are edible when ripe. A third species that is uncommon in Minnesota, Long-leaf Ground Cherry (Physalis longifolia), also has similar flowers but is mostly hairless, has larger, toothier leaves, and is a more robust plant.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at McKnight Prairie, Goodhue County, and Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos by Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: frank - motley
on: 2010-08-01 16:30:54

i have several acres of property and these plants appear to be abundant. I remember growing up in this area that someone said they were poisonous and a member of the nightshade family. can they safely be eaten and made into jelly, etc.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-08-02 08:42:42

I am not an expert on edible plants (please see the links page for other references) but as I understand it, only the ripe fruits are edible. Regardless, you should never eat wild plants unless you know what you're doing.

Posted by: sarah - bemidji, mn/ beltrami county
on: 2011-06-29 09:14:09

i found this plant in bemidji, Minnesota on a road called blue mayflower rd nw. it was growing in a friends driveway.

Posted by: Heather - Minnetonka
on: 2011-07-20 11:36:10

Growing on the west end of Big Willow Park in Minnetonka.

Posted by: Harvey Tjader - Bemidji
on: 2013-01-20 20:44:53

Often found growing among jack pines in Hubbard and Wadena Counties.

Posted by: Giere - Spirit lake iowa
on: 2017-07-18 15:54:39

Found it growing in my garden.

Posted by: Tom Jacobs - Wolverton
on: 2018-06-18 13:00:03

Found one on the riverbank north of Wolverton MN.

Posted by: Joan - blaine
on: 2018-07-17 19:06:34

I have had these popping up in random spots (mainly under my deck) in my yard in Blaine for the last few years. I have tried every year to transplant them to the gardens but even when they do survive the move they don't come back the next year in their new spot . I would really love to see more of them.

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