Sticky Cape Gooseberry

Physalis viscosa L.

Synonyms -

Family: - Solanaceae


Physalis is from the Greek physa meaning bladder and refers to the bladder like membrane enclosing the fruit.

Viscosa is from the Latin viscosus meaning viscous and refers to the sticky nature of the fruit.

Sticky Cape Gooseberry refers to the sticky nature of the fruit and its similarity to Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana).

Other Names:

Cape Gooseberry

Chinese Lanterns

Prairie Ground Cherry

Sticky Gooseberry

Sticky Ground Cherry

Sticky Physalis

Tomato Weed

Wild Gooseberry

Wild Tomato


An erect to sprawling, hairy to almost hairless perennial, 25-100 cm tall with yellow flowers in March and yellow berries enclosed in a papery cases that look like Chinese Lanterns. It usually grows in clumps sprouting from creeping roots and has alternate to almost opposite, oval, undulating leaves.



Two. Oval, Tip pointed. Edges rounded and hairy. Base tapered. Surface frosted with scattered hairs on the upper surface. Petiole slightly shorter than the blade and with scattered hairs. Stem has scattered, branched or forked hairs.

First leaves:

Oval. Tip round. Edges rounded. Edges smooth to slightly lobed. Base round to squarish. Hairy.


Lower leaves alternate, upper leaves almost opposite. 1-2 per node.

Stipules - None.

Petiole - Short.

Blade - Light green, oval, 25-70 mm long by 10-40 mm wide. Tip pointed. Edges smooth, toothed or lobed, undulating. Base tapered to squarish. Hairy to almost hairless with short hairs on the edges and veins.

Stem leaves -


Erect, 250-1000 mm tall, branched, spreading, ribbed lengthwise, arising from rhizomes. Very short, scattered, branched or forked hairs.

Flower head:

Single flowers in the upper leaf axils on erect or slightly curved stalks, 5-10 mm long elongating to 20 mm in fruit.


Greenish yellow bell shaped flowers, 20-30 mm diameter with black blotches

Ovary - superior, 2 celled, seated in a fleshy disk, surrounded by a viscous substance.

Style - simple, erect.

Stigma - head like.

Calyx - 10 angled. Bell shaped, 5-10 mm long with 5 triangular lobes, 2-5 mm long. Sparsely hairy.

Petals - 5, fused, greenish yellow often with a dark blotch in the centre, bell shaped, radially symmetrical, 5 angled, 10-15 mm long by 20-25 mm wide. Woolly hairs in the lower part of the tube

Stamens - 5, inserted towards the base of the corolla tube and alternate to the lobes.

Filaments 3-5 mm long, unequal in length

Anthers - White, narrowly egg shaped, 3-3.5 mm long, attached at the base, 2 celled, releasing pollen by lengthwise slits.


Sticky, orange to yellow, globular berry, 10-30 mm diameter with many seeds and snugly enclosed in a papery casing that is 15-40 mm diameter, 10 angled and scarcely sunken at the base when fruit is mature.


Pale yellow, egg to kidney shaped, flattened. 2 mm long, sticky. Tip round. Edges round. Base indented.


Deep (more than 1000 mm) and extensive root system with creeping rhizomes close to the surface that produce new top growth each year.

Key Characters:

Hairy shrub or herb

Hairs forked (or simple according to Black)

Flowers yellow, solitary.

Corolla rotate

Ovary superior.

5 stamens.

Anthers white, basifixed, 2 celled, opening in slits inwards

Fruiting calyx bladdery, enclosing the fruit, lobes shorter than calyx tube and not sagittate at the base.

Fruit a berry, enclosed in an inflated calyx tube.

Adapted from Judy Wheeler and John Black.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Seeds germinate in spring and grow over summer forming a substantial root system. Top growth dies in winter and new growth appears from the rhizomes in spring. This produces flowers and fruit in the summer and dies back again in autumn to repeat the cycle next spring.


Drought, shading and trampling tolerant.

Has bicollateral bundles or vascular bundles with phloem on either side of the xylem whereas the closely related Scrophulariaceae does not.


By seed and creeping underground rhizomes.

Flowering times:

March in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:


Hairy and almost hairless forms occur.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread mainly by cultivation dispersing root fragments. Pieces of root greater than 15 mm can produce new plants. Wind and water effectively disperse the seeds when the fruit is still enclosed in its bladder. The sticky fruit and seeds attach to animals and other objects but this is not a major form of dispersal because most fruits retain their protective bladder.

The fruit is eaten by birds, stock and foxes and this appears to enhance the germination of seed. Its spread long railway lines is attributed to dispersal in dung.

Dispersal in hay is also an important method of spread.

Origin and History:

North and South America.

First recorded in Melbourne in 1909 and well established in Victoria by 1929.

It may have been introduced for jam making and its introduction to SA may have been for commercial plantings.



South Africa, USA, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay.

Native to North America.



Warm temperate regions with an annual rainfall of 300-500 mm.


Prefers clay of loam soils

Plant Associations:

Prefers open, full sun areas.



The fruits are used for jam making.


Weed of disturbed areas, gardens, irrigated crops.

About 24000 ha is infested in Victoria.

May be toxic and may taint milk.

May host tomato viruses.


Foliage is suspected of being toxic but it is rarely eaten. Sheep eat ripe fruit without ill effects.




Noxious weed of NSW and Victoria.

Management and Control:

Establish vigorous summer growing species. Lucerne and White Clover are often used.

Cultivation is usually ineffective because it re shoots from deep roots, however repeated deep cultivation has provided control.


Eradication strategies:

Herbicides provide the most effective control. Glyphosate at 1 L per 100 L water is effective but kills most species growing at the time of spraying. Lontrel® at 100 mL per 100 L water provides more selective control in bushland areas. Tordon 75-D® at 1 L in 100 L water provides good control and leaves a residual to deal with subsequent growth. Apply herbicides at the flowering to fruiting stage and add 0.25% Pulse® for better control of old stands.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) has much larger leaves.

Ground Cherry (Physalis ixocarpa)

Perennial Ground Cherry (Physalis virginiana)

Redflesh Cape Gooseberry (Physalis alkekengi)

Sticky Cape Gooseberry (Physalis viscosa)

Tamatillo (Physalis philadelphica)

Wild Gooseberry (Physalis minima)

Physalis lanceifolia

Physalis pubescens

Plants of similar appearance:


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Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P532.

Moerkerk, M.R. and Barnett, A.G. (1998). More Crop Weeds. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne. P118. Diagrams. Photos.

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