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Madeira Winter Cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum

Previously known as:

  • Solanum capicastrum
Phonetic Spelling
so-LAN-num sue-do-CAP-si-cum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The Jerusalem cherry is a small to medium-sized, bushy, perennial evergreen shrub. It has dark green leaves and clusters of white star-shaped flowers, that appear in the summer. Red, yellow, or orange berry-like fruits appear in the fall and winter.  The fruit is about the size of a cherry, but it is inedible. It is cultivated as an ornamental and is frequently sold as a houseplant. Jerusalem cherry is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. 

The plant is a native of Bolivia, Brazil, and the southern parts of South America. It is frequently found in warm subtropical or tropical areas. The plant has been introduced in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It spreads rapidly from disturbed forests to natural areas and has become a widespread weed in some countries. The Jerusalem cherry is enjoyed as a houseplant because of its colorful berries during the winter months: however, if consumed, the berries are fatal to humans and pets.

The genus name, Solanum, is from the Latin word solamen, which means "comforting or soothing." The plant has many common names including Christmas cherry, Madeira cherry, and Winter cherry.

Jerusalem cherry prefers full sun in a sheltered location. It thrives in moist, well-drained, loamy soils with a neutral pH. If grown outside the plant must be brought in before the first frost.  The plant reproduces by seeds or stem cuttings. Each berry produces 50-100 seeds. The seeds are dispersed by birds in the wild. Birds appear to have a tolerance to the toxins of the plant. Outdoor plants are pollinated by the wind and insects. Indoor plants will require manual pollination. Resources suggest using a swab or small paintbrush to dab the stamens in the center of the flowers and then spread the pollen to the other flowers.

The plant stems are green and wiry. The leaves are glossy and elliptical to lanceolate in shape with wavy margins. The flowers are usually white and may appear solitary or in clusters. The brightly colored fruits are long-lasting through the winter months.

If ingested, the Jerusalem cherry is toxic to children, humans, cats, dogs, and horses. Gastrointestinal disturbances, seizures, respiratory depression, and shock may occur. Medical treatment should be obtained immediately if any part of the plant is ingested. Allergic skin reactions may also occur. It is best to wear protective clothing and gloves when handling the plant.

The Jerusalem cherry is an easy plant to grow and will add a pop of color to the interior of your home during the winter months. The plant may also be used outdoors as a container or patio plant during the summer months. Remember to keep the plant out of reach of small children and pets.

Seasons of interest:

Bloom:  Summer        Fruits:  Fall, Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • green, wiry, smooth, or sparsely hairy stems
  • dark green elliptical to lanceolate, simple leaves with undulate margins
  • tiny star-shaped white or light purple flowers appearing solitary or in clusters
  • oval, berry-like fruits in colors of red, orange, or yellow that appear the fall and winter

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The Jerusalem cherry may be susceptible to aphids and red spider mites. Gray mold can occur. Too much sun or water will cause leaf drop. Fruit will not be produced if there is a lack of pollination. Indoor plants will require manual pollination.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Thurino'
    orange fruits
'Thurino'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#houseplant#perennials#white flowers#ornamentals#yellow fruits#red fruits#fruits fall#orange fruits#evergreen shrub#flowers mid-summer#patio planting#problem for cats#problem for dogs#skin irritation#problem for children#problem for horses#container plant#poisonous if ingested#fruits winter
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Thurino'
    orange fruits
'Thurino'
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#houseplant#perennials#white flowers#ornamentals#yellow fruits#red fruits#fruits fall#orange fruits#evergreen shrub#flowers mid-summer#patio planting#problem for cats#problem for dogs#skin irritation#problem for children#problem for horses#container plant#poisonous if ingested#fruits winter
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    pseudocapsicum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The plant has been used externally to treat boils and abdominal pain in folk medicine.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Boliva to Brazil, and southern South America
    Distribution:
    Native: Argentina in the Northeast, Northwest, and South; Bolivia, Brazil in the South, Southeast, and West-Central, Chile central north, Paraguay, and Uruguay; Introduced: US--Al, CT, FL, GA, HI, LA, MA, MS, NY, NC SC, and TX; Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Greece, India, Iran, Kenya, Madeira, Mexico Southwest, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Queensland, South Australia, South Wales, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, Venezuela, Victoria, Vietnam, Zaire, and Zimbabwe
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds in the wild disperse the seeds. Outdoor plants are pollinated by insects and the wind.
    Play Value:
    Colorful
    Edibility:
    All parts of the plant are toxic and inedible.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 4 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 4 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Houseplant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are ornamental berries and are available in colors of red, orange, and yellow. They are smooth, glossy, and shiny. They are an oval shape and measure 0.5 to 0.75 inches in length. They contain disk-like seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Solitary
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are star-shaped and may be solitary or appear in clusters. Each flower measures 2 to 3 mm in diameter. They are typically white and sometimes light purple. Blooming occurs during the summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green, simple, glossy, and maybe smooth or hairy. They are elliptical to lanceolate in shape and measure up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. The margins are entire, lobed, and undulate.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are multi-branched and wiry. The stems may be smooth or sparsely hairy.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, salivation, drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, gastrointestinal disturbances, possible ulceration of the gastrointestinal system, seizures, depression, respiratory depression, and shock.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Solanine, Solanocapsine and other alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice