The Chinese lantern plant has a unique unmistakable look that identifies itself.
It’s scientific name is physalis alkikengi and mandarin name is hua jin deng (挂金灯) which literally translates to hanging gold lighting.
While some gardeners might consider them oddly shaped, many homeowners are mesmerized by the special appearance that it’s flowers grow into.
While the pods of this perennial plant initially start off as green, they eventually turn into orange-red which resembles that of a lighted lantern. Thus, the name.
However, the Chinese lantern plant is also well-known to be poisonous and also considered to be an invasive plant due to it’s tendency to spread itself under the ground, drawing on all the nutrients contained in the soil and leaving little left for other plants in close proximity.
This means that any homeowner who wishes to grow them in the garden should put serious thought into the decision if there are children or pets in the household.
You don’t want any curious kids or dogs chewing on them for the fun of it.
Actually some parts of the Chinese lantern flower is edible and used in oriental delicacies. But when you are not an expert on this, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid it altogether.
In the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the calyx and fruits are sometimes prescribed to help patients dissipate heat building up within the body.
Chinese lantern plant meaning and sybolism
The symbolism behind the lantern flower is protection.
This is not surprising due to the toxic it naturally produces to protect itself from being consumed.
However it must be noted that even though it carries the meaning of protection, they are seldom grown by homeowners for the reason of calling on such blessings.
The reason being that there are other much more powerful symbols of protection that feng shui practitioners can call upon.
For this reason dried flowers from the plant is sometimes given as gifts (especially for weddings) to wish for safety to the receiver.
When gifted to someone who is ill, it represents the using of poison to counter against poison (以毒攻毒). Essentially meaning the wish for recovery and good health thereafter.