A sprawling to bushy, sticky, warm season annual or biennial herb with succulent, hairy stems, deeply divided leaves and short sprays of yellow, 5 petalled flowers mainly from February to April that produce succulent, many seeded fruits that are bright red when ripe and up to 10 cm diameter but usually much smaller in naturalised populations.
Blade - Prominent veins. Hairy. Terminal leaflet larger than side leaflets, egg shaped overall, deeply lobed, with a notched base. Side leaflets paired or alternate, usually with short stalks. Often larger leaflets with small ones in between. Distinctive odour when crushed. Somewhat sticky to touch.
Weak, many branched, somewhat sticky, succulent Hairy. Trailing to somewhat shrubby.
At the ends of branches, but appears to be on the side as an axillary bud grows into a new stem. 10-20 flowers on the end of bent stalks arranged alternately up the main axis in a relatively flat plane.
Yellow, star shaped
Calyx - Cup shaped. 5 narrowly triangular lobes that bend back as the fruit matures.
Petals - Star shaped. Yellow. 5 triangular lobes with a pale green central vein. Joined near the base. Lobes bend back with age exposing stamens.
Stamens - Yellow. 5.
Globular, succulent berry, 10-150 mm diameter with many seeds and of varying shape. Turns red when ripe.
Flattened. Almost kidney shaped.
Taproots with shallow laterals and fibrous feeder roots.
Leaves with varying sized leaflets. Odour when crushed. Distinctive red berry fruit.
Annual or biennial. Seed is sown directly into the field or grown in nurseries and the seedlings transplanted. They grow mainly from spring to autumn in southern Australia with some glasshouse production over winter. In Queensland and Northern WA they are grown over the autumn, winter and spring period. They start to bear fruit from 10-16 weeks after planting and will continue bearing fruit for up to 12 weeks.
Optimum temperature for growth is 21-240C. Growth stops when mean daily temperatures are below 170C.
Prolonged periods of less 120C injures the fruit. Fruit set is poor if day temperatures are above 380C or night temperatures are above 260C when the flowers are opening.
Mainly in summer.
February to April and July in WA.
Seed Biology and Germination:
Viable seed passes through the gut of most animals.
A number of commercial cultivars have been produced.
Population Dynamics and Dispersal:
Spread by intentional planting, dumping of food waste and sewerage, by birds and in flowing water.
Origin and History:
Introduced as a fruit crop.
NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.
Prefers fertile soils from sands to clay loams.
The optimum pH is 5.5-6.5.
Widely grown for a salad vegetable, canning, juicing, and tomato paste.
Weed of following crops, stream banks, refuse sites and disturbed areas.
Varies between varieties and stage of growth. Most toxic when the first fruit are half grown.
Foliage toxic to livestock in large quantities. Leaves are the most toxic part of the plant and their toxicity is greatest when the first fruit is green and about half of its final size. Green fruit lose their toxicity quickly as they ripen.
Cattle and pigs have been poisoned usually when they have consumed large amounts of green fruit or plant.
Abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea and loss of appetite.
Remove stock from source of tomatoes. Prevent stock getting access to large quantities of green tomatoes or plants.
Management and Control:
Spray with hormone herbicides. Usually doesn't persist where there are no market gardens or other source of seed close by.
Pests include Tomato Budworm (Heliothis armigera), Native Budworm (Heliothis punctigera) and Tomato Russet Mite.
Diseases include Bacterial Canker, Bacterial Speck, Bacterial Spot, Early Blight, Late Blight, Leaf Spot, Stem Leaf and Fruit Rot and Wilt.
Viruses include the Thrip transmitted tomato spotted-wilt virus, Tomato mosaic virus (caused by Tobacco mosaic virus), Aphid transmitted Leaf shrivel (caused by Potato Y virus) and Leaf Hopper transmitted tomato big bud disease (which is a mycoplasma rather than a virus).
None in the same genus, but closely related to Solanum species or Nightshades and Potatoes..
Plants of similar appearance:
Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). P640.
Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P220.
Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #771.1.
Reid, R.L. (1990) The Manual of Australian Agriculture. (Butterworths, Sydney). P148.
Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.