22 November 2009

Semi-mum day

Physalis alkekengi (franchetii) Chinese Lanterns

"These plants are often simply called physalis, a name derived from the Greek word for bladder. As a member of the nightshade family, physalis is related to tomatoes, peppers and petunias.

The ribbed, lanternlike bladders are actually enlarged sepals that have fused together to envelop the forming fruit. Tear one open and you will discover the fruit, resembling a cherry tomato. Inside the smooth, shiny skin the thick flesh is embedded with a rich harvest of seeds.

The bright husk guards the fruit as it dehydrates in the fall air. Gradually, it becomes paper thin and begins to break down to a delicate, lacy veiling. When this covering finally rips open, the seeds are sufficiently light and dry to be scattered by the wind."

Thanks to Mad Professor Palmer for taking Mr. Fuzzy's color image and transforming it into a magical monochrome. The farm has other pesky members of the nightshade family, including horse nettles. All are invasive and very difficult to eradicate.

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