Shoofly Flower

This pretty blue flower is shoofly aka Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes), a strange solanum that I am growing for the first time this year.

I purchased the seeds last year at the Montreal Seedy Saturday but was unable to grow them as I quickly ran out of space. I’m STILL trying to find space for some of the seed I bought at that event. This year I wanted to make it a priority and sowed the seeds indoors quite early to ensure they would be a nice size by late spring. As you can see, they are already flowering.

Homegrown Mosquito Repellent?

Besides the beautiful blue flowers and Chinese Lantern-like seed pods, Nicandra is often grown for its insect repellent properties. Apparently people rub the dried seed pods, seeds, and chafe on their skin to ward off biting mosquitos. If this really works it could be a bit of revelation for me as I do not like using Deet and I am the first person to get bit (and viciously) no matter the size of the group I am with. Despite the fact that it is natural, I think I will do some more research into the plant’s chemical components before I go rubbing it into my skin or on my hands and face. If you’ve had any experience using this plant as a repellent please weigh in through the comments. I’d love to hear of your experiences.

Until I’ve done my homework and am thoroughly satisfied of its safety, I’m resigned to happily appreciate the look of the plant in the garden. As an added bonus (and despite its reputation) the flowers are attracting pollinators like this wee hoverfly. And I am in favour of anything that will bring in pollinators to our previously barren backyard.

Warning: Nicandra is a self-seeding menace and extremely invasive. I plan to keep on top of deadheading as I do not need the added hassle of weeding hundreds of seedlings next spring.

Furthermore, despite its resemblance to edible solanums such as ground cherry, Nicandra is NOT EDIBLE. The fact that it is considered a poison is one reason why I am not jumping to rub it all over myself until I learn more.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Shoofly Flower

  1. oh weird…i’m growing these too, only the person who gave me the seeds had them labeled as “cape gooseberry.” good thing i didn’t try to eat any.

  2. I have an allergy to Deet- it makes my lips go numb- BAD SIGN! If you have a Trader Joe’s by you – they have a lavender moisturizing cream whose scent is very strong and it works just like a repellent and makes you smell great in the process! The thing is, just like a repellent- they bite wherever you don’t put it. It is best thing I have ever found for mosquitoes!

  3. Thank you very much this was very useful. I will go camping in two weeks and I think that they will have natural nicandra present so we won’t have any problems. Just like Katherine, I have an allergy to deet but I get a rash on my arms. To repel mosquito, I use smoke.

    Thanks again for the post I think I’ll give this a try.
    Mark Stockton
    Certicite Analytics

  4. My ecologist buddies swear by vanilla as an insect repellent. Specifically, a bunch of them are using “Body Fantasies” (I’ll leave that open for interpretation) Vanilla-scented. It is found at Walgreens here in the US.

    Also, I love hoverflies!!!

  5. Beautiful photo. Here in Oz we use Leptospermum liversidgei – a native plant which effectively repels mosquitoes within about a 3 metre radius. I’ve also heard rose geranium, artemesia and citronella geraniums work.

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