Proud lanterns in golden shades of orange that bring colour and light to autumn: Physalis, pleased to meet you. A fantastic source of pleasure that’s also known as the Chinese lantern plant.
Colours and shapes
The Physalis’s colour and shape are easily described: it’s the orange lantern shape that makes these branches so unusual. The lanterns, which are about 5 cm long, appear to have been made from delicate paper that has been very carefully shaped. The lantern also contains an orange berry with a sharp and sweet taste. You can use them to make certain types of jam, or to enhance a dessert. Be careful: not all varieties are suitable for consumption. Always check with your florist.
The Greek word Physalis (ϕυσαλλίς) means wrapper. The lantern protects and envelops the berry, and symbolises safety, comfort and protection. That’s particularly apt in the bleak months during which you find Physalis in the florist’s.
The species is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Although the symbolism is clear, there’s a lot of confusion about the origins of the lantern plant. Japan, China, or perhaps south-east Europe? Raise your hand if you know the answer, or if you’re just delighted to have the lanterns in a vase near you.