Please try our next iteration of the Michigan Flora Online here. Beginning on February 1, 2023, will point to this new site.

The new site offers several benefits over the existing website, including real coordinate mapping, giving a clearer view of the density of documentation as well as more precision about plant distributions and their link to landforms. We will also have the ability to update species pages more regularly, both in terms of new collections and as more existing Michigan specimens are georeferenced. In addition, we have a better photo display, and offer indented keys.


The berry in some species resembles a miniature tomato (and, unlike many species of Solanaceae, is similarly non-poisonous); it is, however, completely surrounded by the enlarged calyx. The species are not always easy to tell apart, and there is not full agreement on species boundaries. Ordinarily, determining whether a plant is annual or perennial is a difficult key character, especially when only herbarium material is available, but in Physalis that character can be particularly helpful and often relatively easy to use. The annual species have a small root, easily pulled from the ground and hence usually present on collected specimens; the perennial species have a large root or rhizome that are often not gathered, the stem ending abruptly.

1. Corolla whitish, with distinct lobes and sinuses; calyx at maturity bright red or orange, over 3.5 cm long.

P. alkekengi

1. Corolla yellow (brown-centered), without distinct sinuses, only minute lobes; calyx at maturity green (or pale orange), less than 3.5 (–3.8) cm long.

2. Stems essentially glabrous or with a few antrorse hairs (especially toward summit); anthers blue.

3. Pedicels 1–3 cm long; perennial.

P. longifolia

3. Pedicels, even in fruit, less than 1 cm long; annual.

P. philadelphica

2. Stems rather evenly spreading-hairy or with at least short retrorse hairs; anthers blue or yellow.

4. Hairs (or little bristles) of stem at least in large part retrorse or recurved, none of them glandular or sticky; anthers yellow, 1.6–2.5 (–2.8) mm long.

P. virginiana

4. Hairs of stem ± dense and multicellular, all spreading, usually at least some sticky or glandular; anthers various.

5. Plants perennial; flowers (10–) 12–18 (–20) mm long; anthers yellow or tinged with blue, (2.5–) 2.8–4 mm long, on broadly widened filaments; mature fruiting calyces ca. 2.5–3.7 cm long, on pedicels ca. 1.5–2.7 (–4.5) cm long.

P. heterophylla

5. Plants annual; flowers 6–9 (–11) mm long; anthers blue, ca. 1.5–2 mm long, mostly on slender filaments; mature fruiting calyces not over 2.5 (–3) cm long, on pedicels less than 1 cm long.

P. grisea

All species found in Physalis

Physalis alkekengiCHINESE-LANTERN-PLANT 
Physalis heterophyllaCLAMMY GROUND-CHERRY 
Physalis philadelphicaTOMATILLO 
Physalis virginianaVIRGINIA GROUND-CHERRY 


MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. February 1, 2023.