NPR logo Another Mystery Solved

TP Flickr Pix

Another Mystery Solved

We've just had a query from DillyBean over at our discussion group about mystery plants and with a little help from our friends over at Timber Press (what? you don't know about this outstanding horticultural publisher?), we have lift-off.

This volunteer showed up in DillyBean's Oregon garden. The telling clue was its seed pod, "covered by a paper husk, much like a tomatillo". Any ideas, she asked? Don't eat it, we answer. This is the shoo-fly plant, Nicandra physaloides, a day-blooming relative of Jimson weed with similarly poisonous parts. photo credit: DillyBean hide caption

toggle caption
photo credit: DillyBean

Based on some elemental surfing, it would appear the shoo-fly plant is inordinately fond of Illinois, since few other states (w/the exception of California) have websites showing where this weedy non-native has naturalized. After planting it voluntarily, Chicago gardener Mr. Brown Thumb has since decided to nip his in the bud.

Nicandra physaloides is hardly poised to take over the planet, and if you can look past its coarse leaves, the flowers and the dried seed husks are quite ornamental. I found a nice assortment of comments about the plant posted on the U.K. website, Plants For A Future. And should you want a variegated form (who am I to judge?) check out Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Oh yeah, about this "shoo, fly!" thing. The plant's reported to have insect-repelling properties, particularly against white fly.