Shoo Fly, Dont Bother Me . . . .
By Kate Hale, Sonoma County Master Gardener
The millions of white flies in my garden are not bothered at all by the strange weed that has suddenly appeared. It grows quickly to three or more feet, is very leafy, and has purplish green stems. The mystery plant is covered with copious 1½ inch tubular flowers which are periwinkle blue with white centers. The flowers become interesting five sided, globular seedpods which turn brown and papery over time and resemble Chinese lanterns or tomatillos. Inside the calyx is a fruit that is filled with seeds.
The newcomer is Nicandra physaloides, also known as apple of Peru, apple of Sodom, insect repellent Plant, and shoo fly plant. The only member of its genus, it comes from Peru and is a member of the Solanaceae, the potato family. All parts of this tender annual are considered toxic. It enjoys water and rich soil, but will survive without either. If it becomes invasive, it is easily pulled up.
I have used apple of Peru in bouquets after removing some of the leaves, and made arrangements using the dried seedpods. The shoo fly plant is also the inspiration for the quilting pattern by the same name. A new variegated variety has come on the market and so others must be as interested in this plant as I am!