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Physalis engraving 2Physalis 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 beePhysalis flowers. 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

Physalis engravingHow 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 can surround 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
25 seeds $3.75

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If you like plants with puffy pods, take a look at Black Apple of Peru

Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Love Spells
Venus Herb

2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission