Despite what their name may lead you to believe, these beautifully delicate lanterns are in fact native to southeastern Europe and Japan, not China. Instead, it is the style of the flower that lends it it’s name, as it’s appearance is similar to that of a Chinese lantern. Throughout summer, the plant grows up to five feet tall and produces white, five petalled flowers with a berry inside. As the flower matures through autumn, the husk turns a bright orange-red colour and the petals become delicate and papery. They are also otherwise known as Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato or Winter Cherry. The plant is a member of the nightshade family which includes tomatoes, peppers and aubergines and despite it’s delicate form it survives well through the autumn and winter months. Although the plant’s unripened berries may be poisonous, the flowers also have medicinal abilities, including being anti-inflammatory, with the ability to treat coughs, fevers, malaria and are even considered to encourage early labour! You can also dry out the flower pods by standing the stems upright in a airy and dry place and when they’re dry they can retain their colour and shape for years.
We often use these lovely little pods in our own arrangements, giving a nice bright nod to autumn.