Nicandra physalodes (Apple of Peru)

Scientific name

Nicandra physalodes (L.) Gaertn.


Atropa physalodes  L.

Common names

Apple of Peru, apple-of-Peru, Chinese lantern, Peru apple, shoo fly, shoofly, shoo-fly plant, shoofly plant, shoofly-plant, shooflyplant, wild gooseberry, wild hops




Native to western South America (Peru).

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Nicandra physalodes is naturalised include Australia, USA, China, Japan, south-eastern Asia, New Zealand and on several Pacific.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Nicandra physalodes is present in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is invasive in parts of Kenya (A.B.R. Witt pers. obs.) and Tanzania (Henderson 2002).


Colonises bare, degraded and cultivated areas


Nicandra physalodes is an annual shrub growing  to 1 metre tall. It has spreading branches (the plant spreads to 1 m wide) and egg-shaped with broad end at base (ovate), mid-green, toothed and waved leaves. The upward-facing flowers are most commonly pale blue and white, but there are also forms with violet flowers and with white flowers. They are bell-shaped and 5 cm or more across. Cherry-like, green-brown berries are encased within green or black-mottled calyces. The mature fruits can resembles a lantern.

Reproduction and dispersal

This species reproduced from seed.

Economic and other uses

Nicandra physalodes was originally introduced as a garden plant (ornamental). It is also known to have medicinal and insecticidal properties. The latter attribute is the reason for it being sometimes known as shoo-fly.

Environmental and other impacts

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


The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species. Some components of an integrated management approach are introduced below.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

Light tillage, hoeing or cutting can effectively control small plants. Many herbicides are available for use on this plant. When using any herbicide always read the label first and follow all instructions and safety requirements. If in doubt consult an expert.

The editors do not know of any biological control programmes targeted at this species.


Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


CABI Invasive Species Compendium online data sheet. Nicandra physalodes (apple of Peru). CABI Publishing 2011. Accessed March 2011.

Henderson, L. (2002). Problem plants in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Final Report to the NCAA.


Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.


This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).


BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: