Friday, August 8, 2008

Chinese Lanterns

An extremely hardy perennial which spreads by root, the charming seed pods are reminiscent of Chinese paper lanterns, so it is obvious how this plant got its name. The proper name is Physalis alkenkengi, Physa, means bladder referring to the inflated calyx. We grow this ornamental plant primarily to use as a dried flower. It dries easily as it maintains its shape and beautiful orange color. At Halloween big bundles of these dried flowers really set the scene for us.
Inside each lantern is one fleshy fruit and inside that fleshy fruit are about 40 seeds. I have read the ripe fruit is edible for jams, but the unripe fruit is poisonous. We have never cooked with it here. Has anyone else?

We also enjoy growing this plant to keep our garden fairies happy. The lanterns make for quite a festive late summer party for them!


Anonymous said...

I once saw a lovely Christmas tree that was decorated with dry Chinese lanterns and yarrow. I also think bunches of cinnamon sticks were used, too. It was very striking. No photographs were allowed in the Cedar Grove house in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Denise at Uniquely Tea said...

These are beautiful! The tree described by Anonymous sounds beautiful, too. Wouldn't bittersweet be nice in combination with Chinese lanterns?

Alice said...

I used to have tons of these--they spread like crazy. They are especially fun at Halloween and I too gathered big bunches.