Clammy Groundcherry (Physalis heterophylla) is one of several native ground cherries that provide delicious fruits that are sweet tasting eaten raw or can be cooked into pies or jams. Clammy Groundcherry is within easy reach of anyone in the eastern United States and Canada. It is found in waste places (disturbed soils) such as roadsides or in dry woods or clearings. I found this clammy groundcherry specimen next to a paved walking path at the local park. They obviously don’t spray here to eradicate unwanted plants (I had just passed a big patch of poison ivy right along the pathway!) so it’s safe to collect the fruit when the time is right.
WARNING: Clammy Groundcherry is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and all parts of the plant and the unripe fruit are harmful. Wait for this one to develop in its own interesting way and take only the fruit.
Taken June 4, 2013, the photos below show the leaves and flower of the Clammy Groundcherry. The leaves are alternate and the stem is sticky. The leaves may be the best way to distinguish Clammy Groundcherry from other ground cherries since the flowers can be very similar. The leaves of the Clammy Groundcherry are wide and pointed at the end with alternate veins with variable margins that are nearly smooth or with few teeth. By contrast, the leaves of the Virginia Groundcherry are narrow and nearly toothless, so best to go by the leaves.
The photo below was taken July 11, 2013. The sepals of the flower form a papery lantern-type enclosure (calyx) in which the fruit grows. These will often fall before the berry is fully ripe but the fruit will continue to ripen in its nice protective enclosure even if it falls. The berries of Clammy Groundcherry are yellow when mature. The enclosure will turn brown to signal the time it right!
Clammy Groundcherries are popular for pies, jams, and jellies but be cautious about allowing them to flourish around your livestock. If they eat the leaves or unripe fruit, they can make them pretty sick. Have you seen them on your property? Have you tasted them (when ripe)? How is the flavor?
Mary is a naturalist who is interested in learning everything she can about the plants seen in everyday life and when hiking. Mary is not a botanist by trade but a citizen scientist like countless others out there she’s met in the field and online who share a common interest. During the day, Mary is a statistical programmer in the pharmaceutical research field. It’s really hard to spot a naturalist, isn’t it? Naturalists don’t fit in standard-sized boxes really well.
Mary discovered that Jo and Eddie were interested in wild edibles and wanted to help educate them and others about the plants she’s identified and to share information. She’s interested in keeping everyone safe and making sure an accurate identification of a plant can be made by readers. She wants to explain how to identify plants accurately and will include some information about how to identify the leaves, stems and flowers (if any) as well as where the plant is found and at what time of year.