alkekengi (franchetii) var. gigantea
Giant Chinese Lanterns
A member of the Nightshade
family, this wonderfully cheerful magick herb is associated with Venus
on account of its bright orange-red lanterns, which sometimes give the plant
the name "Love in a Cage."
The lanterns are great for love magick and make
wonderful cut or dried flowers because they keep their color for a long time,
being especially good to see on gloomy fall days. The plant's
small white flowers are pollinated by bees.
The calyxes, or lanterns, which begin to form as the flowers fade, are first a brownish green and then turn to scarlet as they mature. Inside is
a red berry. The dead ripe fruit (not the lantern) is edible but doesn't taste
very good--it is sour on account of having more vitamin C than lemons.
The rest of the plant, especially the leaves and unripe berries, is poisonous
and can even be fatal if eaten, containing solanine, the same stuff that makes
green potatoes and tomato leaves poisonous. In spite of this, in Traditional
Chinese Medicine, the calyx and fruits are used against toxic heat, for sore
throats, and for thick coughs; they are also pounded into a paste that is spread
on eczema. A homeopathic remedy made from the fruit is used in kidney and bladder
disease. In Europe, the ripe berries are macerated in wine or
vodka to make an extract that is taken for bladder infections.
Western allopathic medicine is investigating the anti-tumor capabilities
of this plant. Harvest the lanterns for drying when the leaves begin to fade.
This plant is also known as Japanese Lantern, Winter Cherry, Strawberry
Tomato, Jews' Cherry(!), and Love In a Cage. Top
to grow Chinese Lanterns: Direct sow in garden in prepared
soil in June or just barely cover indoors in peat pellets in March/April. Germinates
in 14-30 days at 71-75F/22-24C. You can also try growing this like tomato, from
transplanted germinated with warmth. Transplant to 18-24" apart. Grow
in dappled sunlight/light woodland shade. It gets 24-30"/60-75cm
tall. More lanterns
are produced when the plant is not crowded, has rich soil, and gets sufficient
sun, but full sun is usually too much for it. This plant spreads by underground
runners that you can divide in the spring. Chinese lanterns can be aggressive,
so grow it in a container if you don't want it taking over your garden, or you
it with grassy areas. However, this same invasiveness makes it a good groundcover.
Slugs enjoy the young plants, so watch out for them. This plant is a perennial
in zones 3-10 (-40F/-40C). General growing info Top
Physalis alkekengi var. gigantea
Giant Chinese Lanterns
If you like plants with puffy pods, take a look
at Black Apple of Peru
Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2013, 2010, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission