Japanese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi)
The perennial Japanese Lantern plant, also known as Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry, and Chinese Lantern, grows in the Solanaceae family alongside its relatives the Goji Berry and Poha Berry. Sharing many growing attributes to the Poha Berry, the Japanese Lantern stands out with its own unique bright red outer husk- an ornamental color pop that many dry out and make into potpourri.
The Japanese Lantern, native to Northern Asia and Southern Europe, grows aggressively, spreading rhizomes with haste. This makes the Japanese Lantern a fantastic potted-plant candidate. They are rather easy to maintain and thrive with average watering and temperatures down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit!
Hidden inside the showy, inedible Japanese Lantern calyx, a sunset-colored berry awaits inside. Maturing from a small white flower, these berries stay encased in their husks, safe from outside conditions and any pests. The flavor may be described as sweet and tart and slightly reminiscent of pineapple with a mild bitterness. It has been used in herbal apothecaries for its antiphlogistic, antipyretic, antitussive and expectorant qualities. Used fresh, juiced or dried, it can help with urinary and skin diseases. Japanese Lantern leaves are cooked to assist fevers, and are often used to settle inflammation associated with malaria.
Many hang the colorful nightshades for vibrant fall ornaments. Save yourself the candles and grow your own fire-orange Japanese Lanterns!