November 10, 2017

Wild Tomato species (Lycopersicon spp.)

There exists about 17-18 wild tomato species. All of them were formerly placed in genus Lycopersicon, but currently they are classified in genus Solanum, sections: Lycopersicon, Juglandifolia and Lycopersicoides. Each species is very special and different than others, but all have a few similar features: yellow flowers and pinnately compound aromatic leaves (and the same details of flower's morphology). 

Galapagos Tomato (Lycopersicon galapagense) fruits

Wild Hairy Tomato fruits (L. hirsutum f. glabratum)

To Solanum sect. Lycopersicon belong 13-14 species and all native to western South America, from Ecuador to northern Bolivia and Chile (with two endemic species in the Galápagos Islands). They are annual, biennial or herbaceous perennial. Fruits are very small berries – red, orange, whithish-green or purplish-green, sometimes striped, glabrous or hairy. They are often edible and the taste of some species is much other than common tomato. The taxons in this section are divided into a few relationship groups (Neolycopersicon, Lycopersicon, Arcanum and Eriopersicon). 
To section Juglandifolia belong two (Solanum/Lycopersicon ochranthum and S./L. Juglandifolium) very tall, woody vining species distributed in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The fruits of them are larger and have thick hard pericarp.
Section Lycopersicoides (where belong also 2 species: S./L. lycopersicoides and S./L. Sitiens) comprises shrub or subshrub species distributed in southern Peru and northern Chile. They have pale yellow to almost white anthers and small fruits with leathery skin.

Cultivation: The tomatoes which belong to section Lycopersicon are mostly easy to growing as annual, bloom and fruit in first year from seeds, although some species are short-day flowering, so very late ripe (not always mature in cold temperate climate – somtimes frosts are faster). The short-day species start earlier to blooming if they are growing in small pots than in open ground. And they need much of sunlight. Some taxons are self-incompatible, so there is necessary to grow at least 2 plants of them (the best a few plants). Species of section Juglandifolia are very difficult to growing in cold temperate areas. They attain about 8-10m (27-33 ft) tall and starts to blooming only when are very large. There is the trick – grafting theirs shoots on other dwarf tomato species (as for example S./L. pennellii). Then the plants flower when they are relatively small (about 2 m = 7 ft tall) but not earlier than in the second year after grafting. And they are very difficult to wintering, they need in winter much of sunlight and warm temperatures. I do not know much about growing 2 species of sect. Lycopersicoides – my only plant of S./L. lycopersicoides died when it was young. 
Propagation: The seeds usually germinate easily and fast if sown surface. Some species can be dormant by some time after sowing. Then GA3 can help, or simply be patient. But in my experiences all seeds germinated fastly. 

I grew the following species: 

- The species of Lycopersicon group (of section Lycopersicon): 

Lycopersicon humboldtii – Humboldt’s Wild Tomato – the wild small species often treated as one of wild forms of L. esculentum. It was discovered in 1800 by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland in Venezuela (at the "Laguna Tacarigua", the lake of Valencia).It cteates tall bush to about 2 m (= 7 ft), and very delicious, sweetish (pink-)red, thin skinned fruits about 2-3(6)cm (0,8-1,2, sometimes to 2,4 inch) diameter. Plant in large degree resistant to potato blight (Phytophtora). 

 The fruits are larger than cherry tomato (L. esculentum var. cerasiforme)

The largest fruit of L. humboldtii I have harvested 

Lycopersicon pimpinellifoliumWild Currant Tomato – the wild species native to coastal areas from northern Peru to central Chile (also in central coastal Ecuador). It grows in wet places and on the edges of cultivated fields at altitude 0 to 500 m. This species differs from common tomato in a few features: it is almost glabrous or very short pubescent, has more flowers in inflorescences (over 12) and has small red fruits – only about 1 cm (= 0,4 inch) diameter. There are included 2 varieties: var. pimpinellifolium (with the smallest fruits) and var. ribesoides (which is probably a crossing with L. esculentum and has larger fruits – about 1,5-1,8cm = 0,6-0,7 inch diameter). The fruits have similar taste to common tomato but they are more delicious (the taste is stronger). It is more resistant to diseases than cultivated varieties. Also resistant to heat.

The fruits of L. pimpinellifolium var. pimpinellifolium:

 L. pimpinellifolium var. ribesoides:

The fruits of this variety are larger than previous (the coin on the photo is size about 2,5 cm = 1 inch)

Lycopersicon cheesmaniae (syn. L. cheesmanii) – Galapagos Wild Tomato –this is similar to previous wild species native to Galapagos Islands. It have yellow or orange, small -0,6-1,4 (2,5)cm = 0,3-0,6 inch (sometimes to 1 inch) diameter - fruits with taste similar to common tomato. Species resistant to salinity. There is very difficult to get/buy seeds of true species (in the most cases there are sold hybrids with L. esculentum with larger fruits and seeds). True forms have very little seeds. I grewthe true species (but unsuccessful, I have not harvested the fruits) and 1 hybrid form with larger, pear-shaped fruits and larger seeds (successful). 

The true species:

The hybrid form with larger, pear-shaped fruits and larger seeds:

Lycopersicon galapagense (syn. L. cheesmaniae var. minor, L. cheesmanii var. minor) – also called Galapagos Wild Tomato – it is the second Galapagos Islands native species. It is very different than other species. It has 3-4-pinnate leaves (with tertiary leaflets and often quaternary lobed) and small orange, sometimes hairy fruits (0, 5-1,1 cm = 0,2-0,5 inch) diameter with very large calyxes. The seeds are very small. The fruits have often thick skin and are very delicious with taste similar to common tomato. The leaves are much divided, something similar to a fern leaves. I grew 2 forms: first with “loose” (not dense-lobed) leaves and glabrous fruits about 0,8-1,1 cm diameter and the second with dense leaves and smaller yet, hairy fruits. The second form was later and more difficult than first one (in my experiences), but I can say that this species is relatively early and easy (in comparison to some other wild species). It is also very difficult to get/buy true species.
The "loose-leaf" form:

 Small, glabrous fruits with large calyxes

 The "dense-leaf" form:

 Fruits of this form are very small and hairy
 The leaf with tertiary leaflet (charactristic for L. galapagense)

- The species of Eriopersicon group (of section Lycopersicon): 

Lycopersicon hirsutum f. typicum (syn. L. agrimoniifolium, L. hirsutum var. agrimoniifolium, Solanum habrochaites) - Wild Hairy Tomato – it is sprawling perennial shrubs or vines to 6 m (= 20 ft) long, but usually smaller. Flowers very showy 3-5cm (=1-2 inch) diameter, golden.The fruits are edible (in Equador they are pickled with an onion).Fruits are small (about 1-1,5cm = 0,4-0,6 inch) diameter, green, hairy (hairs hard and dense), very delicious when fully ripe (with specific aroma and taste, very different than common tomato). Leaves with hairy both surfaces. Species native to Andes from Ecuador to Peru in forests at altitude 400-3600m (=1333-12000 ft). Plant resistant to powdery mildews, early blight, bacterial speck, root-knot nematodes and two species of red spider mite. Also very cold tolerant. Very late flowering and fruiting (short-day flowering). Ripe fruits fall down when ripe.
 Flowers are quite large
It is very ornamental in blooming time
 The fruits are covered by long elastic hairs

Lycopersicon hirsutum f. glabratum (syn. L. hirsutum var. glabratum) – also called Wild Hairy Tomato - - rare fruit – it is sprawling perennial shrubs or vines to 6 m (20= ft) long, but usually smaller. Flowers very showy 2,5-5cm (=1-2 inch) diameter, golden. The fruits are edible (in Ecuador they are pickled with an onion as previous form). Fruits are small (about 1-1,5cm = 0,4-0,6 inch) diameter, green, hairy (with very fragile straight hairs), fragrant and very delicious when fully ripe (with specific fruity aroma and taste). Leaves with glabrescent upper surfaces. Species native to the southwestern parts of Ecuador at lower latitudes (0-6 degrees south). This form is capable of crossing with L. esculentum. Plant resistant to powdery mildews, early blight, bacterial speck, root-knot nematodes and two species of red spider mite. Also late but earlier than f. typicum. Resistant to low temperatures.

 Fruits are covered by long stright fragile hairs

Lycopersicon peruvianum – Peruvian Wild Tomato – it is tropical spreading (to erect) perennial to about 0,5m (= 2 ft) tall and 2 m (= 7 ft) diameter. It is native to central Peru to northern Chile, on desserts or as a weed at field edges in coastal river valleys (at altitude 0to 600 m = 0-2000 ft). The fruits are about 1-3 cm (0,4-1,2 inch) diameter whitish-green, with acid taste and strong smell resembling something common tomato. They usually fall down when ripe. Flowers have characteristic curved staminal column. This species is usually self-incompatible, but there are also self-compatible forms. Drought resistant. I grew 2 forms: first self-compatible and earlier and the second with more dentate leaves, self-incompatible and very late (the fruits ripened in December, after harvesting). 

The earlier self-compatible (rare) form:

The later ripening self-incompatible form:

The fully ripe fruits of this form

The coin on the photo is size about 2,5 cm = 1 inch
- The species of Arcanum group (of section Lycopersicon):

Lycopersicon arcanum (syn. L. peruvianum var. humifusum) – Wild Tomato – it is spreading, often prostrate perennial herb with woody base and shoots to about 1-1,5m (= 3-5 ft) long. It is native to coastal and inland Andean valleys in northern Peru, on dry valleys, and dry rocky slopes (at altitude 100–2500 m = 333-8333 ft). The leaflets are usually entire. Flowers have straight staminal column. Fruits are very small, only 1-1,4 cm (0,4-0,6 inch) diameter, greenish, hard (not soft) when ripe, with long calyxes. They fall down when ripe. The leaves and flowers are very ornamental.

 The fruits are very small
 The coin on the photo is size about 2,5 cm = 1 inch

Lycopersicon chmielewskii - Chmielewsky's Wild Tomato - a wild species which grows in wild state in Andean valleys in southern Peru to nothern Bolivia (at altitude 2300-3000m = 7666-10000ft). Perennial herb (but can be grown as annual) with woody base to 1m (=3,3 ft) tall and wide.The leaves have characteristic cilantro-like smell. Fruits (with very large violet tinged calyxes) very small 0,5-1,3 cm (= 0,2-0,5 inch) long, aquamarine colored, short hairy pubescent, very delicious, acidulous, with unusual aroma. This species has the potential for high vitamin C content. It starts to flowering in August or September and ripens late.

 Ripe fruits

- Section Juglandifolia:

Lycopersicon ochranthum (syn. Solanum ochranthum) – Giant Woody Vine Tomato – it is woody vine to 8-10 m (=27-33 ft) tall. The stems in base are very thick. The flowers are large, golden-yellow and green fruits have diameter 2-5 cm (0,8-2 inch) or even larger – they are the largest of all wild tomato species. Also the seeds are very large. It is native to central Colombia to southern Peru. It grows in montane forests at altitude 1900–4100 m (= 6333-13666 ft). It can be grafted on L. pennellii or other dwarf species to obtain smaller plants which bloom when they are about 2 m (=7 ft) tall in the second year of growing.

 The seedlings

- Section Lycopersicoides:

Lycopersicon lycopersicoides (syn. Solanum lycopersicoides) – Tomato Nightshade – this is strong smelling herbaceous or woody shrub with much divided leaves and large inflorescences. The fruits are 1–1.2 cm in diameter, globose, purple to black when ripe, glabrous and shiny. It is native to Southern Peru to northern Chile on the western slopes of the Andes (on dry rocky hillsides at altitude 1500–3700 m = 5000-12333 ft). Very resistant to low temperatures.

The seedling

There are a few other wild tomato species yet. If you have available seeds of any of them, please write to me. 

1 comment:

  1. hello im interested in acquiring seeds for some of the verities you describe above. any way we can chat?


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