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July 2010
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Shoofly plant (Nicandra physaloides) – also known as Apple of Peru

It is also known as Apple of Peru. It belongs to the night shade family. It is a native of Peru and the whole Mediterranean region as well as some Central American countries. The plant grows up to a height of 3-8 feet or 1m tall and ½ as wide. The leaves are up to 1 foot and are toothed and waved in appearance. It is a poisonous plant which has flowers that are blue-violet in color. In as little as 6-8 weeks the flowers bloom. The flowers are bell-shaped with white centers and at the end of bloom become lantern-like.
These flowers have short flowering period blooms only for one day. It is more of a weed but many keep it as an ornamental plant as it is believed to have insect repellent properties too. The fruits appear prickly which are enclosed in papery inflated calyxes. The fruit has a dry and edible berry in it. It’s an annual tropical weed. It is tall and coarse and has rank-smelling foliage. They bloom in late summer or mid fall but germinate continuously if the moisture is adequate. The soil needs to have a pH of 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral). A single plant can produce thousands of seeds.
Its family, Solanaceae, contains tropane alkaloids including hyoscine (scopolamine), hyoscyamine, atropine. It has some side effects like restlessness, dryness of the oral mucosa and dilation of the pupil and in animals it causes poisoning due to ingestion of crushed seeds. The leaves are used as a medicine in some countries like Brazil and Madagascar. Seeds act as food for Birds. It acts as a vector for many other plants and hence it is called Saturn flower (also because of its appearance). The Samba people of Africa eat the leaves of this plant.

Growing Conditions of Shoofly plant

• Dry the seedpods on plant itself, do not pluck until dry enough.
• Remove the seeds from the apple.
• Let the brownish-red seeds germinate for 7-14 days at 24 degrees.
• In about 2 to 3 weeks, the seedlings can be picked out.
• Sow in late autumn or before the last frost of spring.
• Plant them either in containers or in open ground with good drainage and cover lightly in soil.
• Keep 60-90cm spacing in between.
• Expose in full or partial sun.
• Keep the soil moist enough by watering.
• It self sows freely.

Care for Shootfly plant

• The soil need to be moist.
• The sun exposure should be full.
• It can be invasive and heavily ingested as it is a poisonous weed too.
• It’s self-sowing and so need to be carefully avoided on spreading.
• Fertilize every 2-3weeks during flowering period.
• In summer give lot of water to avoid wilting of leaves.
• Once dried out they can be torn out with roots to avoid spreading around.

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