Identifying Downy Ground Cherry

Ground cherry is like the husk tomatoes sold to gardeners. It, like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and nightshade, are members of Solanaceae called the Nightshade Family.

I saw these plants out in the pasture and along the road buried in the grass. The horse nettle, a relative, stands taller showing off its half inch spikes.

downy ground cherry plant

Downy ground cherry plants are about a foot tall hidden among pasture grasses.

Naively I thought there was one ground cherry and one horse nettle. In the case of horse nettle I was correct.

Dent County is home to three ground cherries, possibly two more.

I went back to my photographs from past years. I read the descriptions. I looked at the pictures again.

downy ground cherry flower

Downy ground cherry flowers hang down opening toward the ground.

Yes, some of the plants did look different from the others. It was hard to tell. And the plants were mixed making telling them apart even harder.

downy ground cherry flower

Ground cherry flowers are bells with five points.

There is no quick fix. I get to start over tracking down these plants and taking a new set of photographs.

This time I know there are up to five kinds of ground cherries. I will again look pictures of them up on the internet. I will make closer observations of the plants as I find them.

downy ground cherry leaf

The downy ground cherry leaf has wavy edges. It is covered with fine, short hair.

Finding the plants will take time. Some of these plants do reach eighteen inches tall. The grass is two feet tall.

Invariably the goats are my best allies. The herd doesn’t like the tall grass and hopes the brush hog will trim it down to size soon. They tromp out and wait for me to come out and lead them back through that scary grass where some monster must be hiding.

downy ground cherry fruit

Like other ground cherries, the downy puts its round fruit inside a thin, papery bag. When the fruit is ripe, the bag dries and turns brown.

Of course I often go out without my camera. It is late afternoon, not the best light for taking pictures. And I find a patch of ground cherries.

The first patch was easy. It was the first and not a repeat of one found earlier. The challenge was finding the patch the next day. I didn’t.

I finally did find the patch again. One down, four to go.