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Nicandra physaloides - (L.)Gaertn.

Common Name Shoo Fly
Family Solanaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards Although no mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, it belongs to a family that contains many species of poisonous plants so some caution is advised. It is normally the leaves and the unripe fruits that are most likely to be suspect, this family also includes many food plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers etc.
Habitats Naturalized in waste places and near dwellings in much of N. America[204].
Range S. America - Peru. Introduced and casual in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Nicandra physaloides Shoo Fly

Nicandra physaloides Shoo Fly


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Nicandra physaloides is a ANNUAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. It is in flower from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses:

Fruit[177]. No more details are given. The fruit is a berry about 15mm in diameter[200]. Young leaves - boiled[177]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Anthelmintic  Antibacterial  Antiinflammatory  Diuretic  Febrifuge  Mydriatic

The plant is diuretic[240]. There is no evidence to suggest that the plant is purgative, though an alkaloid with mydriatic action is present[240]. The seeds are used in Tibetan medicine, they are said to have an acrid taste and a cooling, very poisonous potency[241]. Analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge, regular use increases bodily vigour[241]. They are used in the treatment of contagious disorders, toothache, intestinal pain from worms and impotence[241]. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of fevers[272].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


The plant is thought to repel flies[188].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[1], but prefers a rich well-drained soil in a sunny position[200]. Plants withstand poor weather conditions well and do not usually require staking[200]. Plants are fast-growing[188] and often self-sow freely[200]. Individual flowers only live for one day, but the plant produces a succession of flowers from summer to early autumn[188].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ in late spring, preferably after the last expected frosts[200]. Young seedlings can be transplanted. The seed can remain dormant for several decades[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

brian smith   Tue Aug 24 12:20:44 2004

A rather unpleasant looking plant possible because of the colour of the flowers. Now that I know that it is not particulary toxic I will encourage it - it seems to have grown from wild bird food.

Barbara Carignan   Sun Jul 30 2006

This beautiful little plant appeared out of nowhere last year. I was so impressed with it that I saved the seeds and planted them this year. I like to think it was a gift from my daughter who had just recently passed in September. It blossomed way into October until frost time. I had never seen this plant in Maine before.

Barbara Carignan   Tue Aug 1 2006

I would like to add to my comments from 7/29 about this "shoo fly" plant. My plants seem to attract the flys, and there are tiny black dots on all the leaves. The spots were all there right from the start, so it's not from disease. Other than these two factors, everything else matches out per- fectly with your pictures and descriptions of Nicandra physaloides. Do you have any answers for me about my plants? As I stated before, I saved the seeds from one lone beautiful plant last year. The flowers were larger on that one, however. I live in southern Maine.

   Thu Oct 26 2006

This beautiful plant appeared in my new vegetable bed in Nottingham,UK, in july 2006. I thought it was a species of Physalis but couldn't identify it. A member of the Royal Horticultural Society advisory team told me it was Nicandra physaloides. I'm a little disappointed that it's not a tomatillo, but I'm still hoping that one of the fruits will ripen sufficiently to harvest seed before the frost sets in. Does anyone know if the fruits taste nice and whether they will turn yellow like a tomatillo when ripe? The most advance fruit on my plant is purple.

Ajna Fern. Plants For A Future   Mon Oct 30 2006

The fruit on this plant is not worth eating. It is mainly seeds inside a dry skin and is also likely to be slightly toxic.

L Heasman   Tue Dec 19 2006

I grew this plant on my allotment in Romsey, Hampshire along with my broccoli this year and it would appear that it kept away most of the white fly compared with my neighbours plot where the cabbages were severly attacked. My wife had a solitary Nicandra in a large pot outside of our French doors this summer. It was noticeable how the flies coming into the house increased when we pulled the plant up in September. Perhaps there is something in the 'Shoo-fly' name after all.

Carol Higgins   Tue Mar 18 2008

In his Journal Thoreau wrote " In north part of Rochester (Ma) went into old uninhabited house once belonging to John Shearman an old deserted house" dated 1753..."In the cellar grew rhe apple Peru Nicandra Physaloides--then in bloom" Wondering why in cellar in deserted house. Have read it won't grow/bloom in shade C Higgins

G. Kerr   Sun Aug 23 2009

This lovely plant has just appeared in a pot growing a hydrangea, also in a potato bed on my allotment. I also thought it must be a type of Physalis. Glad to know what it is and will try to save seeds. I think i got it in a bunch of wild flowers bought at a carboot sale. I live in Suffolk, coastal, U.K. G. Kerr

R Crookston   Wed Sep 9 2009

To the web site editor I have found many references to the toxicity of this plant and strongly urge you to update your references as I fear some may be tempted to try eating the fruiting body or leaves. R Crookston

Flowers of India

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