Leaf of the Day: Ebony Shoofly

This lovely dried and papery pod has been sitting on my desk for weeks now, in fact I have quite a few and keep meaning to make a larger colour study of them. It is from the Ebony Shoofly Nicandra physalodes sometimes called Apple-of-Peru and is another plant from the Nightshade Solanaceae family.
It was the colour of the new pods which made me first notice this handsome plant. It was growing in the herb garden at Leu Gardens and in some of the herbaceous borders. I thought it was beautiful with its lantern pods, dark purple stems and lilac flowers.

And then the name.. well I have to admit that I used to think “shoofly” was an American fly of some sort. I had only ever heard the word in connection with the song “Shoo fly don’t bother me”, had never seen it written down and thought it was all one word spelt “shoefly” (giggle) i.e. shoe shaped fly. How easy it is for misconceptions to arise. So I laughed when I saw this plant tag.
It’s called Shoofly because the leaves contain an alkaloid which repels some insects particularly whitefly, so I would imagine that it is a good plant for companion planting. However this lovely green shield beetle was not much bothered.

The “fruit” is the little berry encased in green and purple inflated calyces. According to the Michigan State University, Dept of Horticulture here the fruit and leaves are edible but knowing they are related to the nightshades I would be a bit cautious.
However they are related to the absolutely delicious Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana (They are so beautiful and I have drawn them many times but haven’t seen any here recently.)

..and to the the little green Tomatillo Physalis philadelphica which we see in all the supermarkets here.

I had done a quick sketch (below) some time ago,the subtle green colours of the tomatillo are particularly attractive.

And then as I was doing some research I came across “Shoofly Pie” which has its origins with the Amish community in Pennsylvania and from looking at the recipe is a bit like an old fashioned UK treacle tart. The name of course because it’s so sweet and delicious that the flies just love it and you have to keep shooing them away.

Ebony Shoofly Pod and Tomatillo