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The various ground cherries (Physalis spp.) can be difficult to distinguish and their taxonomy is somewhat unstable. Smooth Ground Cherry (Physalis subglabrata) is sometimes classified as a distinct species (Mohlenbrock, 2002), and sometimes it is classified as a variety of Physalis virginiana or Physalis longifolia (usually the latter). Compared to other ground cherries, Smooth Ground Cherry has wider leaves that are not significantly lobed and it tends to be a larger plant. It also has less hairy leaves and stems than many ground cherries. After their husks have been removed, the berries of wild ground cherries resemble cherry tomatoes that are yellow or red. One species, the Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), is sometimes cultivated as an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. In Illinois, this annual species is sometimes cultivated in gardens, from which it rarely escapes and naturalizes into uncultivated areas. Compared to Smooth Ground Cherry, Tomatillo has slightly larger and showier flowers; the anthers of Tomatillo's flowers are purplish white, rather than yellow or purplish yellow. In addition, the leaves of Tomatillo usually have sharply pointed lobes, while those of Smooth Ground Cherry either lack lobes or their lobes are rounded and shallow.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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