Physalis angulata L.

Cutleaf Ground Cherry


CC = 3
CW = 3
MOC = 32

© DETenaglia

Family - Solanaceae

Habit - Taprooted annual forb.

Physalis_angulata_root.jpg Taproot (partial).

© SRTurner

Stem - Ascending, to 80 cm, usually with several spreading to ascending branches, stout, glabrous or sparsely pubescent toward the tip with short, antrorse, nonglandular hairs 0.1-0.5 mm long.

Physalis_angulata_stem.jpg Stem.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, simple, petiolate. Blades 2-12 cm long, lanceolate to ovate, tapered to a sharply pointed tip, rounded to angled or tapered at the base, the margins relatively sparsely and irregularly toothed (with 2-9 teeth along each side), minutely nonglandular-hairy, the teeth mostly sharply pointed, irregularly shallow and broad, the surfaces green when fresh, drying uniformly green, glabrous or sparsely pubescent with minute, appressed, nonglandular, hairs.

Physalis_angulata_leaves.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_leaf2a.jpg Leaf abaxial surface. Usually glabrous.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Solitary axillary flowers, the stalks 7-17 mm long becoming elongated to 15-30 mm at fruiting.

Physalis_angulata_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Actinomorphic, hypogynous, perfect, usually nodding. Calyces 3-5 mm long at flowering, the lobes 1-3 mm long, the outer surface glabrous or sparsely pubescent with minute nonglandular hairs (these denser along the lobe margins) at flowering, glabrous or sparsely hairy along the main veins at fruiting, at fruiting becoming elongated to 20-40 mm long, shallowly 10-ribbed, rounded to very shallowly concave at the base, mostly remaining green, occasionally yellow to tan with age. Corollas 6-10 mm long, uniformly light yellow to lemon yellow, the inner surface occasionally slightly purplish-tinged toward the base. Stamens with slender filaments half as wide as the anthers or narrower, the anthers 1-3 mm long, blue or bluish-tinged, arched but not coiled after dehiscence.

Physalis_angulata_flower.jpg Flower.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© DETenaglia

Physalis_angulata_corolla.jpg Stamens. Anthers are wider than the filaments.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_corolla2.jpg Corolla. Base has yellow-brown smudges, not well-defined dark purple markings.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Juicy berries 1.0-1.5 cm long, green or yellow to orangish yellow. Seeds numerous, 1.5-2.5 mm in longest dimension, asymmetrically ovate, flattened, the surface minutely pitted, somewhat shiny, light yellow or yellowish brown.

Physalis_angulata_fruit.jpg Fruiting calyx.

The persistent, inflated, papery calyx which which encases the fruits has 10 equally prominent nerves.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_berry.jpg Fruit.

Portion of calyx removed to reveal fruit.

© SRTurner

Physalis_angulata_berry2.jpg Sectioned fruit with seeds.

© SRTurner

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Streambanks, sloughs, pond margins, moist depressions, crop field margins, railroads, moist disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Numerous other species of Physalis, especially P. acutifolia and P. missouriensis.

Other info. - This species of ground cherry is found in scattered counties in Missouri, predominantly south of the Missouri River. It seems to have a particular affinity for crop field margins. Missouri is near the northern edge of the plant's natural North American distribution, which extends southward as far as South America. In the continental U.S. it is found across the southern half of the country.

The various species of Physalis can present challenges to confident identification, partly due to a number of species which appear similar. Broadly, the genus is characterized by a branched habit, pendent yellow flowers, and fruits enclosed in a papery husk. The most familiar example of this pattern is the culinary tomatillo (P. philadelphica). Species differentiation within the genus relies on habit (taprooted annual or rhizomatous perennial), pubescence characters, leaf shape, number of ribs on the papery husk, and size and coloration of the corolla. Many Missouri ground cherries have flowers with deep purple markings on the corolla interior, but Physalis angulata flowers lack these and instead have brownish smudges in the corolla throat. Other Missouri species with mostly yellow corollas are P. missouriensis and P. acutifolia. P. angulata also has distinctive leaves bearing relatively prominent but irregular teeth along the margins.

The fruits of ground cherries are edible when mature, and are sometimes used to prepare salsas and preserves.

Photographs taken off Lee Rd 54, Lee County, AL., 8-26-04 (DETenaglia); also along the Katy Trail near Dutzow, Warren County, MO, 8-2-2012, near East Central College in Union, Franklin County, MO, 10-8-2014, and along a roadside west of Duck Creek Conservation Area, Wayne County, MO, 10-12-2021 (SRTurner).