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The lantern flower, botanically Physalis alkekengi, belongs to the plant genus of the bladder cherry (Physalis) from the nightshade family (Solanaceae). A relative of the lantern flower is the Cape gooseberry, botanically Physalis Peruviana. While the berries of the lantern flower are not suitable for consumption, the fully ripe berries of the Cape gooseberry, which are often sold as physalis in supermarkets, can be eaten without any problems.

Lantern Flower (Physalis alkekengi)

The lantern flower is an ornamental plant. Its name comes from the lantern-like calyx that surrounds the fruit. While the berry is ripening inside the cup, it glows intensely in orange-red. Since the plant is very undemanding, you can find it more and more often in the home gardens. But be careful, lantern flowers are purely ornamental plants and not suitable for consumption, as they are slightly poisonous according to the poison center in Bonn.

Lantern flower, Physalis alkekengi

Plant parts above ground

The green plant parts of lantern flowers contain bitter substances that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. If diarrhea and/or vomiting occurs, you may need to see a doctor. Are responsible for the symptoms of poisoning steroid lactones in the above-ground plant parts. They are contained in all parts of the plant with the exception of the berries.


True, the berries of lantern flowers do not contain any steroid lactones, but the toxins can easily be transferred to their fruits. This is because on the inside of the parchment-like calyx that surrounds the berry are glands that secrete an extremely bitter and poisonous juice. If the calyx is opened with the fingers, the juice from the glands is transferred to the berry, which can lead to symptoms of poisoning if large quantities of the berries are consumed. Once the juice has been transferred, the berries no longer taste sweet and sour, but extremely bitter. Therefore, the berry is usually spat out quickly.

If large amounts of the berries are consumed despite this, this can lead to similar symptoms of poisoning as with deadly nightshade. Symptoms include nausea, sweating and heart problems.

Tip: Regardless of the sap transferred, as with all nightshades, the unripe fruits of the Chinese lantern are poisonous to humans if eaten in large quantities.

Subterranean parts of plants

The roots of the plants contain tropine derivatives which are toxic to humans.


For children

Small children in particular feel magically attracted to the glowing goblets. But the consumption of the berries of lantern flowers also seems to be rather harmless for children. The Munich poison emergency call center sees no risk of poisoning for children. The Styrian capital of Graz lists the plants in the “poisonous plants” folder in the “harmless and largely non-toxic” category. They are even seen there as child-friendly planting.

The Poison Information Center North (GIZ-Nord) states, with reference to medical literature, that children who have eaten one to ten berries have experienced slight vomiting, slight abdominal pain or slight diarrhea.

Tip: Since it remains unclear whether the consumption of the berries is safe for children, it is better to educate children about the dangers posed by the plant.

For animals

Lantern flowers are dangerous for pets cannot be clearly clarified. The Chinese lantern is not listed as a poisonous plant in the database of the Institute for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich. Elsewhere in the database, the berries of the Chinese lantern are said to be edible.

dog and cat

Tip: If your pet has eaten the berries and has any symptoms, you should definitely consult a veterinarian.



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