A Jerusalem Cherry is a type of perennial plant with poisonous fruit. Also known as Solanum pseudocapsicum, it is a nightshade species originally native to Peru. It's often kept as a common houseplant, and is so wide-spread in Australia it's considered an invasive weed.
It has red, poisonous fruit that both looks and tastes similar to cherry tomatoes and is often confused with them. However, eating the fruit from this plant is rarely life-threatening to humans and will likely just cause vomiting and gastroenteritis. It can also cause diarrhea, drowsiness, and headache. In extremely rare cases, eating the fruit can result in delirium, hallucinations and even coma. Ingesting enough of it could be fatal to dogs, cats and birds that are kept as pets, such as parrots.
The Jerusalem Cherry is also referred to as the Madeira Winter Cherry, the winter cherry, and False Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum capsicastrum). Jerusalem Cherry and False Jerusalem Cherry were once recognized as two separate plants, with the False version being slightly smaller in size and having foliage with a grey tint to it. The two plants are generally now referred to as the same thing in most gardening and plant books.
The plants can live up to 10 years but don't produce their poisonous fruit until year two or three. After it blooms once, it typically produces every year thereafter. Small white flowers are the first sign that the plant is beginning to bloom in the midsummer. The flowers are followed by the cherry tomato-like fruits. These start off green, then turn yellow, orange and red. The Jerusalem Cherry likes full sunlight but can tolerate partal or light shade if necessary. It needs a warmer climate and prefers to be kept outside year-round. Jerusalem Cherry plants are susceptible to powdery mildew, root rot, leaf rot, southern blight, leaf spot and crown rot, among other diseases.
The name is a misnomer, as the plant does not bear real cherries and is not native to Jerusalem or the area. One theory as to the origins of its name is that a gardener brought back the seeds or plants from someone's private garden in Jerusalem and simply attached the country's name to the plant without researching its true native land. Several other plants with the Jerusalem name also have little to do with the country itself. One authority hypothesises that Jerusalem is a substitute for a foreign or exotic country when the plant's namer doesn't have a background to attribute to the plant.