Apple of Peru

Nicandra physalodes

Common name:

Apple of Peru

Scientific name:

Nicandra physalodes

Alternative common names:

Shoo-fly plant, apple of Peru, apple of Sodom, Peruvian bluebell. 

Apple of Peru is an annual shrub growing to 1m tall. It has spreading branches (the plant spreads to 1m wide) and the mid-green, toothed, wavy leaves are egg-shaped with the broad end at the base (ovate). The upward-facing flowers are most commonly pale blue and white, but there are also forms with violet or white flowers. The flowers are bell-shaped and 5cm or more across. Cherry-like, green-brown berries are encased within green or black mottled calyces. The mature fruits can resemble a lantern. The plant usually germinates in late spring or early summer. 

Additional Info

  • Where does this species come from?

    South America.

    What is its invasive status in South Africa?

    NEMBA Category 1b.

    Where in South Africa is it a problem?

    Mpumalanga.

    How does it spread?

    The seeds are spread by birds.

    Why is it a problem?

    It has become a weed among crops, in disturbed sites, waste areas, roadsides, gardens, riparian zones (banks of watercourses) and forest margins.

    What does it look like?

    Leaves: Mid-green, toothed and wavy leaves. Flowers: The upward-facing flowers are most commonly pale blue and white, but there are also forms with violet or white flowers. They are bell-shaped and 5cm or more across. Fruit/seeds: The seeds are regarded as more toxic than the other parts of the plant. The fruits are dry, brown and encased in a brownish, loose, papery net-veined covering formed from the sepals.

    Does the plant have any uses?

    Ornamental. It is also known to have medicinal and insecticidal properties.