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Common Name: Prairie Ground Cherry
Physalis pumila is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.30 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where many of the members have poisonous leaves and stems, though the full ripe fruits are usually edible[
South-eastern N. America - Illinois to Colorado and Texas.
Dry open slopes on plains and prairies[
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors in the milder parts of this country. If it proves to be tender, it should be possible to treat it as an annual, sowing the seed in early spring in a warm greenhouse and planting out after the last expected frosts[
]. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.
Succeeds in any well-drained soil in full sun or light shade[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The plant conveniently wraps up each fruit in its own 'paper bag' (botanically, the calyx) to protect it from pests and the elements. This calyx is toxic and should not be eaten.
Seed - sow early to mid spring in a greenhouse only just covering the seed. Germination usually takes place quickly and freely. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of fairly rich soil when they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection such as a cloche until they are growing away well. Diurnal temperature fluctuations assist germination[
Division in spring[
]. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.
Basal cuttings in early summer[
]. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.