clammy groundcherry

(Physalis heterophylla)

Conservation Status
clammy groundcherry
Photo by Dan W. Andree
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Clammy groundcherry is a 8 to 36 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises from a tough, deep, horizontal, underground stem (rhizome). It often forms colonies.

The stems are branched. The upper part of the stem is densely covered with both long, soft, shaggy hairs and sticky, glandular hairs.

The leaves are alternate, thick, soft to the touch, stalked, egg-shaped or diamond-shaped, 1½ to 4 long, and 1½ to 2½ wide. They are broad and rounded or heart-shaped at the base, and taper to a point at the tip with straight sides along the tip. The margins have a few irregular teeth. The upper and lower surfaces have silky, appressed hairs as well as glandular hairs.

The inflorescence is single flowers nodding at the end of to 3 5 long, glandular-hairy stalks (pedicels) rising from the leaf axils.

The flowers are ½ to ¾ long and wide. There are 5 pale yellow petals with purple to brown splotches near the center. They are fused into a bell-shaped corolla with 5 shallow lobes.

The fruit is a ½ spherical, berry, green at first, turning yellow at maturity. It is enclosed in an inflated, papery, heart-shaped, ¾ long husk. The tip of the husk is mostly closed, and the base has a shallow indentation where it connects to the stem. The husk hangs from a pedicel that has elongated to 1. The berries are poisonous when green, edible when ripe.




8 to 36


Flower Color


Pale yellow with purple to brown centers


Similar Species


Virginia groundcherry (Physalis virginiana var. virginiana) is a shorter plant, no more than 24 at maturity. The upper stems are covered with short, stiff hairs that are bent backward, and no glandular hairs. The leaves are narrow, taper to the base, and extend down along the stem somewhat. They lack the “clammy” feel. The fruit is an orange berry. The base of the husk is sunken (this may be difficult to distinguish from the “indented” base of clammy groundcherry).


Dry. Upland woods, prairies. Full or partial sun.




June to September


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Solanales (nightshades, bindweeds, gooseweeds, and allies)  


Solanaceae (nightshade)  
  Subfamily Solanoideae (nightshades and allies)  
  Tribe Physaleae (groundcherries, lanterns, and allies)  
  Subtribe Physalinae  


Physalis (groundcherries)  

Subordinate Taxa


A redescription of Physalis heterophylla (Waterfall, 1958) separated the species into three varieties based in stem thickness and the density of long hairs. A later analysis (J. R. Sullivan, 2004) concluded that there was too much overlap in these characteristics to warrant recognition of the varieties. Today (2023), some sources, including ITIS, GBIF, USDA PLANTS, and NatureServe, recognize two varieties, P. h. var. rowellii and P. h. var. heterophylla. Other sources, including GRIN, NCBI, iNaturalist, Plants of the World Online, and World Flora Online, recognize no varieties.




Physalis ambigua

Physalis heterophylla var. ambigua

Physalis heterophylla var. clavipes

Physalis heterophylla var. heterophylla

Physalis heterophylla var. nyctaginea

Physalis heterophylla var. rowellii

Physalis heterophylla var. villosa

Physalis nyctaginea

Physalis sinuata


Common Names


clammy ground-cherry

clammy groundcherry










A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.


Glandular hairs

Hairs spread over aerial vegetation that secrete essential oils. The oils act to protect against herbivores and pathogens or, when on a flower part, attract pollinators. The hairs have a sticky or oily feel.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antennae. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

Visitor Photos

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Dan W. Andree


I think this might be some kind of Ground Cherry
Plant ...

It was blooming at Frenchman’s Bluff SNA last June 18, 2020. But I'm not really sure just what it is.

  clammy groundcherry  


    clammy groundcherry   clammy groundcherry  
    clammy groundcherry      


    clammy groundcherry      






Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  EatTheWeeds: Episode 58: Ground Cherries, Physalis

Dec 17, 2008

Learn about wild food with Green Deane about the edible ground cherry (physalis) a wild edible that has found its way into cultivation.




Visitor Sightings

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  Dan W. Andree

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

I think this might be some kind of Ground Cherry Plant ... But I'm not really sure just what it is.

clammy groundcherry


Location: NE Mpls

Discovered a large patch growing on the edge of a large Juniper near a patch of Native Prairie Plants much to our delight








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