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Common Name: Shoo Fly
Flowering plant, about 1.5 metres tall
Photograph by: Harald Hubich
Nicandra physalodes is an annual plant that can grow up to 1.20 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Although no mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, it belongs to a family that contains many species of poisonous plants so some caution is advised. It is normally the leaves and the unripe fruits that are most likely to be suspect, this family also includes many food plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers etc.
S. America - Peru. Introduced and casual in Britain.
Naturalized in waste places and near dwellings in much of N. America[
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[
], but prefers a rich well-drained soil in a sunny position[
Plants withstand poor weather conditions well and do not usually require staking[
Plants are fast-growing[
] and often self-sow freely[
Individual flowers only live for one day, but the plant produces a succession of flowers from summer to early autumn[
]. No more details are given. The fruit is a berry about 15mm in diameter[
]. Although related to, and looking similar to, Physalis species, the fruit of this plant is a dry berry containing mainly seed and, if it is not poisonous, it is certainly not worth eating[
Young leaves - boiled[
]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
The plant is diuretic[
]. There is no evidence to suggest that the plant is purgative, though an alkaloid with mydriatic action is present[
The seeds are used in Tibetan medicine, they are said to have an acrid taste and a cooling, very poisonous potency[
]. Analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge, regular use increases bodily vigour[
]. They are used in the treatment of contagious disorders, toothache, intestinal pain from worms and impotence[
]. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of fevers[
The plant is thought to repel flies[
Seed - sow in situ in late spring, preferably after the last expected frosts[
]. Young seedlings can be transplanted. The seed can remain dormant for several decades[